Companies Behaving Badly-Rules? We Don’t Need No Stinkin Rules

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As it is workplace safety is not the most glamorous topic around the world and when it comes to personal safety in general it’s not something most people talk about at all unless a major incident has been recently covered on television or the internet.  It doesn’t help when safety managers and other professionals are perceived and portrayed as scolding mothers reminding the kids to wear their mittens or put away their toys.  The reality is it’s not easy walking that fine line between what the regulators proclaim, what the company wants, what the employees comply with and what YOU know is right.
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What the recent defiant acts of the people, opening a salon by the owner while quarantine ‘stay at home’ orders were in effect or protests by other members of the pubic serve as a perfect example as to why workplace safety is so difficult to prevent 100% of accidents.  When you are dealing with people, as we are witnessing when it comes to the health and safety of others let alone their own health and wellbeing, they’re going to do what they want to do even if what they believe to be their right is wrong and dangerous.
So your company spends all the money in the world on high-quality training manuals full of detailed glossy colorful 8 x 10 photos, along with the best quality professionally produced videos possible and enlist the most elegant and entertaining silver voiced of all motivational speakers and after all that plus the additional training reminders, slogans, contest, drills, toolbox meetings, tailgate meetings, monthly meetings and huddles if that worker has it in their head they can still beat the machine and grab that jammed package out of the way without doing a proper Lock Out Tag Out, they’re going to do it, consequences be damned, not when a challenge is right there in my face.
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p>Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Unfortunately the consequences of this employees actions are a reality no one wants.    The employee wound up with a serious injury (total of 15 stitches on two fingers), the company issued a written reprimand along with a 5-day suspension without pay so the employee could contemplate the error of their ways and then upon their return must suffer further indignity by going throught the company safety orientation and safety training on his machine again before being allowed back to work.  Do you now have.a loyal happy employee?  Was a suspension necessary? I didn’t think so, I thought the injury and safety refresher was enough.  Why did he do it and will he be careful and use better judgement next time?  Only the shadow knows. We’ll come back to this later on.
When the people openly protested the stay at home quarantine and gathered close in proximity while not wearing masks or other protections they did so because they believed their freedom to do what they wanted was being taken away.  Their freedom to expose themselves and innocent people to the virus.  Isn’t it funny how people pick and choose which freedoms they want but damn everyone else.  What if a manager or supervisor believed repairs on a piece of equipment needed for production was taking too long and he wanted to sped it up and decided to unlock the LOTO in place at the power source and get things going while a worker was still finishing up on it.  Is he wrong?  He did justify his actions by stating his concerns that his bonus may be reduced for not meeting production goals or as we used to call it making quota?  Because of that, he would not be able to feed or properly care for his family and so he cut safety corners even though someones life could have been at stake.
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Let’s take it further.  A manager is tired of the production line stopping and starting due to a safety mechanism.  The device is doing the job it was intended for and that is stopping the high-speed production line so employees don’t get injured or worse, caught in the conveyor and killed.  However, this manager is concerned about losing his job due to problems beyond and within his control at the plant.  So to get ahead on production he disables the electronic eye from stopping the machine and keeps the line going, that is until an employee got a sleeve caught and was pulled in to the machine and now ironically the line is down and production halted until OSHA can finish their investigation.  As he told the grieving widow, “Yes he’s gone but we met quota and hey, you’ll meet someone else, no big deal.”
In actuality these two stories are OSHA violations and would be willful violations at that but hopefully it bothered you that people were purposely put in danger.  It is against the law to tamper with safety devices and yet like everything else in life there are those who will obey the law and do proper LOTO and then there are those who only care about themselves and their own greed and that’s why more than ever we need to watch each others back.  Now back to our machine operator with the stitches.  Did the company really do justice in that situation?  Did they look at all the facts including his previous record in which he was given increased responsibilities over the 5 years he worked there and improved his skills and abilities without an accident until now?  No, they did not, only pointed out he had an attendance problem over a year ago as they didn’t care it was due to issues he had with childcare.  So what motivated him to do what he did?  Could being pushed to make quota be a partial cause for his accident?  Was it to close to break or end of shift and his blood sugar was off?  Was it boredom or just a case of poor judgment?  The truth is he was was going to hit a new personal high on the number of cases packed on his machine during a shift.  He was very proud of himself in how well he had the machine tuned and got lost in all the excitement and really wanted to hit that number.  The good news is he will set a new record on that machine and he won’t lose any body parts to achieve it.

 

So as we see contrary to popular belief, rules are not meant to be broken.  It’s actually records, records are meant to be broken.  Rules are put into place for a reason and not just because Mom said so, or your teacher is mean, or your boss is a jerk but to keep you safe from yourself and the world. So before you decide to change or ignore them be sure you are ready to suffer the consequences.
monkeyfallgearposter

Safety Lessons Learned From Wile E. Coyote 6

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Today’s lesson learned at the Wile E. Coyote school of safety where they constantly disregard the laws of physics, corrupt the rules of nature and live in animated immortality.  But here reality kills.

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Training/Certification – Whether you drive the family wagon or other pieces of powered equipment like a forklift or backhaul you need to be trained and certified before legally operating that piece of equipment.  To drive a car I took Driver’s Education to get training and then my written/road test to get certified and obtain my license.  In the workplace, the process is very similar.  The company that hired you will give you classroom training as well as hands-on training on how to properly operate, inspect, report safety/maintenance issues, report accidents and professionally conduct yourself within the confines of the facility.  After passing a written and road test you will be certified to operate that vehicle and the more hours behind the wheel, the better your skills will become and you will achieve the status of professional. 

A professional understands their certification is a privilege earned through hard work that can be revoked by the company at any time for violating safety rules.  A professional understands the limits of the powered equipment, never uses it for horseplay or any other purpose than the intended, observes the speed limit and all other rules of the road, reports all maintenance issues immediately, and respects the vehicle by keeping it clean and free of debris.

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The certification process is to protect the company as well as YOU!  Your certification says they invested the time and money to train you to operate the vehicle safely and efficiently.  If you were to operate a powered vehicle without training you could cause a serious accident and the company would have no choice but to throw you under the bus for doing this.  That’s why you NEVER do it without training even if a boss tells you that it’s okay this time.  It’s not okay at any time unless an extreme emergency.  If you do not receive any training at a facility and told you are required to operate an industrial powered vehicle you need to stop and ask why?  If the answer is not satisfactory you have three choices.  You can find another job, you can continue and risk your life or you can call the OSHA Hotline at 1-800-321-6742 (OSHA) and make an anonymous complaint.  Remember, the life you save may be your own. 

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#staysafe #socialdistancing

Safety Lessons Learned From Wile E. Coyote 5

wileecoyotelatinToday’s lesson learned at the Wile E. Coyote school of safety where they constantly defy the laws of physics, perverse the rules of nature and live in animated immortality.  But here fire burns.

 

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What to do if a fire breaks out?  You have 3 choices if this happens.  A – You can immediately alert everyone nearby, evacuate the area and call 911 allowing the professionals to deal with it.  This is the preferred method.  B – You can quickly assess the situation and size of the fire to determine if using a fire extinguisher will put it out safely.  If you can, grab the extinguisher, making sure you keep yourself between the fire and your means of escape and P.A.S.S. (Pull the pin, Aim at the base of the fire, Squeeze the lever and Sweep side to side)  C – Remember, you don’t have to be a hero. If the fire continues or gets out of control, evacuate and call 911.

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Whether at home or at work, make sure you know where all the emergency/evacuation routes are located and all the fire extinguishers, as well as smoke/carbon detectors, are current and fully operational.  At home, you need to have at the very least, two ways to get out as mentioned in Home Safety-Shouldn’t have to be an Escape Artist  If you haven’t done so yet, and please don’t tell me if you haven’t, change those batteries!  To me, the greatest act of karma is a smoke detector beeping its disapproval in the middle of the night. So you can do it then or you can get on the time change-battery change bandwagon.

Hope you are all staying safe and practicing social distancing while you stay at home.  I know it may have been tough to get adjusted to working at home and keeping the kids entertained but what a golden opportunity to solve a problem with the family.  Enjoy!

 

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Safety Lessons Learned From Wile E. Coyote 4

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Today’s lesson learned from the Wile E. Coyote school of safety where they constantly defy the laws of physics, perverse the rules of nature and live in animated immortality.  But here gravity always rules.

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LESSON 4 Preventing Falls: Falls don’t just occur off the top of a building but can happen in facilities where production occurs within buildings of several stories including several levels of mezzanines and conveyors belts.  Lack of railings, guard rails or open holes in floors are especially dangerous in these areas since you are not wearing fall protection gear so if you drop the only thing stopping you is the bottom.  If you were to slip or trip in an elevated area the safety railing/guard rail is there to stop you from going over the side preventing serious injury or death.

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If a section of safety railing needs to be removed for repairs or replacement it should be completed as fast as possible and not wind up on a backburner.  Until the railing is back in place properly mark the area as hazardous with signs and cones and limit the amount of traffic.  As far as the odd holes in the floor, they’re usually the result of machinery that use to operate in that space.  Why some companies leave the holes I’ll never understand as it’s dangerous and illegal to do so. How can you concentrate on your job when you have to wonder if you’re taking your last step.  In areas where a lot of debris is created makes the holes even harder to find.  Cover and repair them immediately!

If these unsafe conditions exist where you work and you have reported them and no one gets back to you, there is no movement to correct it, or you’ve been told to mind your business and you’ve spoken with H.R. and/or your union representative and still, nothing is done then you have to decide how important your life is.  Call the OSHA Hotline 1-800-321-6742(OSHA) and make an anonymous complaint.  The life you save may be your own.

monkeyfallgearposter

Safety Lessons Learned From Wile E. Coyote 3

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Today’s lesson learned from the Wile E. Coyote school of safety where they constantly defy the laws of physics, perverse the rules of nature and live in animated immortality.  But in our world, the earth sucks as gravity still wins.

 

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LESSON 3 – Weight Limits.  Each of you has a limit on how much weight you can lift and hold safely.  Machines and equipment are very much the same way in that respect. When they are built at the factory, with the specifications made by engineers, they can easily move or lift the weight they were designed to handle.  That’s why it’s important to familiarize yourself with those limits so you use the right equipment for the job so it’s done quickly and safely.  

 

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This applies to everything from forklifts (try to pick up something over the weight rating and you will tip over) motorized pallet jacks and tugs.  It also applies to trucks, (too much weight on an axle will get you red-tagged at the state scale because it’s dangerous). An overweight truck is harder to stop and very unstable and harder to control on the road.  Even the steel racking in your warehouse has weight limits that you must observe and should have posted so everyone can stay safe and not worry about falling racks.  So as you see it’s just not just fashionable to worry about being overweight but healthy for you on many levels.

 

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Safety Lessons Learned From Wile E. Coyote 2

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Today’s lesson learned from the Wile E. Coyote school of safety where they constantly defy the laws of physics, perverse the rules of nature and live in animated immortality.  But in our world reality always wins.

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Lesson two – Daily inspections and checklist.  Yea, yea. They’re a pain, every day the same thing, what a waste of time said one employee as he picked up a forklift checklist and just marked everything off right down the list as ok without even looking at the forklift.  When I challenged him on it he asked does anybody really look at them?  Yes, I do, I replied.  Not only did I look at them and keep them on file but when items are indicated that need maintenance or repair I always attach the repair technician’s report of repairs so there is one easy continuous paper trail available if you were to ever have an OSHA audit.

 

However, what is more, important than the completed checklist is the actual conduction of the inspection.  That’s right, the checklist is not there just to torture you but to remind you what to look at and for during that preshift inspection so the forklift or other powered vehicle is safe to operate for the full shift.  An inspection report is a tool for communicating needed maintenance and a legal document that must be properly completed.

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Did you see a puddle under the vehicle, does the horn work properly, what condition are the tires, do the breaks work?  Those observations make inspections critical to your safety.  Don’t assume the last person to operate the equipment had no problems or the warehouse fairy will do repairs overnight and if the horn stops working or the breaks are pulling don’t wait to report the problem on the next inspection.  Stop and report immediately!  Take the few minutes to do a proper inspection, complete the checklist and have a productive day at work.

 

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Safety Lessons Learned From Wile E. Coyote

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Today’s thoughts on lessons learned from the Wile E. Coyote school of safety where they constantly defy the laws of physics, perverse the rules of nature and live in animated immortality.  But in our world gravity always wins.

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LESSON 1 Never stand directly under a suspended load of materials or a bin with a clogged auger.  If it were to suddenly drop or flow you don’t want to be there between it and the floor upon its landing.  Even when clearing any kind of jam don’t try to clear it from directly underneath. (Are you seeing the theme here?)  A sudden release of the jammed product could the very least seriously injure your neck, spine, shoulders, head or suffocate you if not outright kill you.  Also when you are clearing jams please make sure to Lock Out Tag Out the power source to help prevent injuries,  Never keep quiet about safety for the life you save may be your own.

 

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Companies Behaving Badly-The Return

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Yes! Because of your many fabulous comments and requests, which was so greatly appreciated- This is the return of Companies Behaving Badly which will now be published the third Thursday of each month.

This means I will have to add something new and make adjustments my routine so I can dedicate time to writing this series which is a good thing since it’s nice to change up one’s routine so it doesn’t get too stale and predictable but it’s also bad in that I absolutely hate changing my routine.  Once I get a routine all nicely broken in, comfy and predictable I’m set and can carry on for months if not years.  However, when it comes to safety in the workplace getting into a set routine can be very dangerous.

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When we fall into a set routine we develop a false sense of security and then complacency develops and focus is lost.  You’ve backed up your forklift hundreds of times when loading, unloading trucks or storage racks and you have always looked behind before moving and in all those times not once, did anyone walk behind you.  Complacency begins to woo you over to their ways and letting your guard down as your new false security is reason to believe people know better than to go behind you and they need to watch for you.  So now you backup your forklift without even so much as a slight swivel of your head.

One day it happens – 

So how do we combat complacency in the workplace?  We could hire cheerleaders shouting out encouragement to pay attention to the movement on the shop floor but that could become very impractical and costly overtime not to mention distracting.  We could use the grief and guilt generated from the accident to motivate workers to avoid complacency but unfortunately, that has a short shelf-life as the memory will soon fade.

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It’s not easy to be on the top of your game every day.  Even athletes have off days.  You didn’t sleep, you’re worried about a sick family member, you’re ill, you have money problems, but you do your best to stay focused.   You can’t be a helicopter manager walking alongside your employees every minute of the workday but you can have a huddle at the beginning of each shift.  It’s the best time to communicate with your staff about what to expect, what to watch for and any other reminders you want to convey.

It’s also why you as the manager/supervisor want to be on the shop floor 80% of your time.  Watching for signs of complacency and touching base with workers in real-time.  Let’s face it, workplace safety is not glamorous, at times it seems like your parents scolding but maybe if we think of it as a form of communication instead of safety where we discuss ways to ensure we go home in one piece and understand you are just as responsible for your safety as the company you work for, maybe even more so.

PREVENTABLE – Beer delivery firm fined £800,000 after a worker was run over by forklift truck at Dagenham depot https://buff.ly/2Uzutsx  Here’s a case where a forklift backed up and hit a worker.

PREVENTABLE WORKING TOGETHER –  Workplace fatalities are at their highest levels since 2008. What’s going on?  More than ever we need to watch each other back at work. Stay focused and don’t be afraid to speak up.

PREVENTABLE –  Ever wonder what an accident waiting to happen looks like?  Inside a chaotic warehouse where Hermes staff were ‘buried in parcels. https://buff.ly/36XHzTb Wonder what the customers are thinking.  Housekeeping is an important part of safety in the workplace.  It prevents trips, slips and falls not to mention makes the facility look really good too and keeps the brass from looking deeper.

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PREVENTABLE –  This is not complacency related but is a distraction issue which is just as bad. Jobsites’ most universal hazard is the personal cellphone  https://buff.ly/2UwtZU0: We really are our own worst enemy.

Why you need to inspect

PREVENTABLE – A worker was killed in a wood drying kiln because he couldn’t exit as over time corrosion prevented the door from being opened with the push bar from inside.  A routine inspection could have caught that.  The manufacturer was fined $281,250 https://buff.ly/39xcyY3

PREVENTABLE – Widow of a construction worker killed in light rail site fall sues maker of protection device https://buff.ly/2SrUCXx All safety equipment must be inspected on a regular and consistent basis to prevent tragedies. Make sure it’s being done.

Who’d a thought

We are an interesting species.  We love to solve problems even though the solutions make cause more problems like this one.  WIND turbine blades can’t be recycled so they’re piling up in landfills — https://buff.ly/2v6yI4e Just like all the spent nuclear rods we have piling up.  Eventually, we’re going to run out of space.  Do you have any suggestions for reuse?

Well, that brings this episode to a close and thank you all for stopping by.  Remember you are in charge of your safety.  Don’t let anyone threaten or bully you into doing unsafe acts.  Until next month, take care

monkeyfallgearposter

 

 

You Know The Drill

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In a recent twitter chat on workplace safety for #USAMfgHour one of the questions we posed to the group was, When was the last time you had an emergency evacuation or fire drill?”  I was not prepared at all for the responses and quite shocked as sadly they ranged from not at all to Not as often as we should.  It was disconcerting to think that employees may not know how to evacuate, respond in an emergency or where to assemble for a headcount.   

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I often harp about having drills and the associated training but only because I truly believe there is nothing more critical in any industry, then training and drills.  They help to improve employee’s skills, keeps them current with new trends and equipment, increase their self-confidence which becomes an added bonus of improving employee retention.  Drills are also a great opportunity to share information between management and employees and visa Versa on what’s working or not.  

As important as that is, it’s even more essential to drill, on not just how employees are to respond to an emergency but that they know what PPE is required and how to properly wear it along with any other equipment that is used during an emergency and that it is fully operational as well.   Make sure to drill and check any backup systems too. 

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Emergencies, disasters, catastrophes are funny things.  They happen when they want too, not when it’s convenient for us and that’s more than enough reason why all shifts especially those off shifts when most of management is gone, need to be trained and drilled responding to emergencies.  When an emergency happens every second counts when responding and that can make the difference between dying or surviving. 

One of the best ways to conduct a drill is to just make it one of your monthly safety meetings during your yearly slow period.  This way you can go the whole nine yards including use of hazmat suits, respirators and operating the pumps or vent fans.  Do it all and make sure it all works. Take notes on who/what goes right and who/what goes wrong.  Ask for your employees’ feedback on the drill, in fact, have a quality circle discussion on what do they think can be improved.  Make changes as needed and the written procedures reflect it and everyone has signed off on the training.  I held drills every six months for several reasons.  First to keep everyone on their toes, second improve the team’s response time and last but not least, would purposely swap out staff at different key responder positions since disasters also don’t know who’s on vacation or a new employee.

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Unfortunately, in this day and age, the reality is in addition to training and drilling for liquid spills, gas leaks or other mechanical issues you also need to have a plan to deal with an active shooter.  It’s not a great topic or something I ever had to deal with but you never know if a disgruntled employee or a jilted lover will show up unexpectedly to settle a score.  So you need a way to alert workers to shelter and place until law enforcement arrives.  

Some of us have “to go” bags or emergency survival kits in our homes for the purpose of giving some added insurance should a disaster hit our area.  There is no reason at all why you shouldn’t have one of these in your place of business as well.  Depending on your location, in the event of an earthquake, you may be cut off until help can arrive and those supplies would come in very handy.  Your safety committee can put it together and maintain it or you can make it a team-building project, either way, don’t delay.

If your company doesn’t hold drills you can always conduct your own during your lunch break.  Look and find where the closest emergency exits are, walk the evacuation route and locate the assembly area.  Safety is just as much your responsibility as the companies.  Take control of it and don’t become a victim.  When you begin a new job, your first job, internship, apprenticeship or seasonal work for any company and you do not receive any formal training and materials explaining what to do in an emergency, you need to find another job cause this company cares nothing about you and that’s the last place you want to die.

You should never feel unsafe on the job, you can’t be forced to put yourself in danger to do a job.  If you find yourself threatened or bullied make an anonymous call to the OSHA HOTLINE  1-800-321-6742  The life you save may be your own.

monkeyfallgearposter

 

It’s 9 a.m. Do You Know Where Your Contractors Are?

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As your company grows in sales and expands to accommodate more SKUs, greater inventory, new machinery, and additional employees at one time or another, your business is going to need help from an outside contractor.  They may be in the form of an engineering consultant, general contractor, painter or other types of specialists needed for a project well beyond your or your staffs’ current expertise.

When you make that final selection on your outside contractor before you sign anything make sure to do your homework and check up on their history.  If it all comes back good and you’re ready to offer a contract for the work to be done, on their first day at your facility they should be treated like any other new or temporary/seasonal worker that you bring in and participate in a safety orientation before doing anything. 

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Why?  They don’t know what your expectations are on safety and you don’t want to assume they do.  They don’t know your facility very well and you want to make sure as heck that they don’t contaminate your staff with their bad habits.  You also want to make sure they know that if their workers don’t follow those rules at your facility they’ll be banned from entering.  It’s your facility, your rules and you don’t need additional headaches because an outside contractor couldn’t follow direction and is now in need of medical attention.

You’d be amazed how many outside contractors are injured or killed every year on the job because they either cut corners on safety procedures, were traveling (via foot, electric cart, forklift) in an unfamiliar layout, lack of training or the company didn’t communicate instructions to them properly or incorrectly.  Here’s a contractor who’s paying a hefty fine for not following safety rules.  OSHA Fines Contractor $94K After Worker Burned At McDavid Sawmill and here’s another contractor being investigated for a chemical spill, OSHA investigating contractor B.L. Harbert over Birmingham Water Works chemical spill

As I stated earlier, it’s amazing the number of contractors injured or killed and it appears this is becoming a more serious problem as the numbers have increased.  A sharp rise in US contract workers killed on the job

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We hired an outside contractor to do some work on a new production line we were installing and it involved electrical and concrete work.  The main mode of transport within the facility was by man-lift, elevator or stairs with man-lift being the main one and the rule was if you rode the man-lift you didn’t carry a backpack, tools or other cumbersome items.  If you dropped it someone could be injured below or if it got caught riding up you could fall.  Our maintenance crew knew to take their carts and equipment up by the elevator.  The outside contractor didn’t go through any safety orientation as the company assumed all would be well.

A few days after the work began there was a commotion on one of the upper levels in the facility and our in-house emergency team responded to a call at the north man-lift where someone had fallen.  It was one of the contractors and it was bad enough that a call was made to 911 for an ambulance.  He was in a rush and had decided he didn’t want to wait for the elevator but took his tools up the lift with him and wound up falling two stories.  He broke both ankles, a leg, two ribs, a shoulder and sustained back and head injuries.

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The very next day the company had every manager doing recertification on every employee in their department.  I had to watch all 60 of my staff get on the lift, one at a time go up one flight, get off and then come back down one flight.  Documented it for all and then had myself recertified.  A fun evening was had by all.  Here lies the problem.  When you don’t take care of business the right way the first time, by proper training, proper documentation, you wind up spending and wasting time documenting while trying to keep production going full speed just to cover the company’s ass.

However, this will not be a problem at your facility and you will be in full control if you follow these guidelines:

  1. This is your facility, your rules, you are in charge!  As the supreme leader responsible for what goes on, it’s your rules of the road that are followed to protect everyone from employees to outside visitors.
  2. Any individual from the outside contractor must complete your in-house safety orientation. This is important especially if your facility has man lifts, elevators, confined spaces, danger areas, and flammables.
  3. Constant sustained communication between the contractor and you, the hiring company is critical to everyone’s safety.  What equipment will they be using that day, noise level, dust level and so on?
  4. To achieve #3 designate a point person at your company for the contractor to communicate with, answering any questions at any time while the contractors are physically on-site.
  5. Check-in and check out daily with the contractor.  Greet them upon arrival, go over any new details and see them when they leave.
  6. Stop by periodically to touch base and see how the work is progressing and that the contractor’s workers are not wondering anywhere they shouldn’t be.
  7. Don’t hesitate to ban any outside worker not following the rules or committing an unsafe act.
  8. It’s your facility, you are in charge, be in charge.

 

whf2020