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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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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Companies Behaving Badly-Nice Guy

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Welcome back for another episode of Companies Behaving Badly.  Is Spring being bashful where you live?  Maybe if we treated the environment better, Spring wouldn’t be so self-conscience and step out sooner.  

Of the blogs I enjoy reading, the latest edition of the PPM Blog – Practical Practice Management written by Tina Del Buono, When Being The Nice Guy Backfires”  hit a chord for me since it pertains just as well to safety on the job.  As Tina says, “Most managers want to have good relationships with their staff and go the extra mile for them by being the “nice guy”.  But not always does being a “nice guy” pay off, in fact, it can hurt your career.”  This couldn’t be closer to the truth and in a distribution center or manufacturing plant being a nice guy can wind up getting an employee injured or worse and you under the spotlight of investigation and wind up in court, as a defendant, being sued for failing to enforce safety rules.

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Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Seriously.  More cities are taking a tougher stance on safety and actually prosecuting supervisors, managers, and owners.  If you think for one minute that your company won’t throw you under the bus if a worker gets injured because you wanted to be a nice guy and said, oh you forgot your safety goggles, that’s o.k., get them later or it’s close to break, forget about LOTO so you can go on time, that doesn’t look like bad jam.  Every day you’ll be tested, I forgot my earplugs, I forgot my LOTO locks, I forgot my brain and every day you have to enforce the rules, uniformly and consistently.  The first time you back down to be a “nice guy” and make an excuse to justify your actions, you’ve lost ALL credibility.  Chances are that allowing someone to not wear their safety glasses won’t lead to an injury but when the other employees see this, what do you think they’re going to expect?  You tell the employee sorry they forgot their safety glasses but they can’t go to their workstation without them.  I always kept a few extra pairs in my desk and just handed it to them with a reminder that all PPE is necessary, no excuses under my watch.

There was a warehouse manager who poorly scheduled and didn’t properly utilize staff so there was a lot of dead time in the morning and because he wanted to be a “nice guy” he didn’t make them sweep or clean but allowed horseplay to help the employees pass the time.  One of their favorite games was racing forklifts across the warehouse, straight down aisles with assorted obstacles.  One day, during a race the brakes failed on one of the forklifts and the young driver’s reflex was to instinctively put his leg out to help stop the forklift.  The forklift stopped but his right foot was wedged between the lift and a steel beam supporting the roof. 

ER This young man wound up losing half his foot and even after several surgeries and a long stint of rehab he was never going to work in a warehouse again and this plunged him into a deep depression and despair even when the state retrained him for another career but he ultimately survived.  The manager was terminated for being a “nice guy” and had to live with the guilt of what happened in the warehouse for the rest of his life.  Soon after the dust settled I was asked to move from customer service to take over the warehouse.  That doesn’t mean nice guys always finish last.  You can be a “nice guy” in so many other ways by treating workers with respect, listening to their concerns and saying thank you for a job well done.  Buy them lunch for no reason at all, approve that day off they requested and please recognize their accomplishments.  

Whether you’re a nice guy or not, unfortunately, DANGER lurks in every workplace and knowing and understanding them gives you an edge.  The fishing industry wants to make sure their workers know, Workplace safety campaign addresses commercial fishing risks.  If you are not getting any kind of training on job hazards, first think, is this a company that appreciates me and do I want to work here?  Then go online and research the hazards specific for your job or read blogs like this one and learn about them and then discuss them with fellow workers, your shop steward, human resources.  The more people you get involved in safety the better for all of you.  

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Like drilling it down makes it better for all as emergency responders train to hone farm rescue techniques https://buff.ly/2qEI4hW.  It makes perfect sense in a community that has lots of family farms to be prepared to handle any emergency that may occur there.  As in a community that has lots of trains passing through, their local first responders would do better to have drills on derailments.  In your facility the same holds true.  If you work with chemicals then you should receive training on how to handle a spill or other type of release of chemicals as well as for fires, evacuations and other emergencies that may possibly arise.  Again, if you’re not getting this training then it may be time to find another job.

Nice guy or not, if you’re dumb enough to put someone in charge who doesn’t understand the dangers of the job, proper PPE to be used or knows the regulations then you’re not only an idiot in my book but still at fault per OSHA.  Ignorance of OSHA standards no defense for worker’s death.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit Court upheld OSHA’s decision to issue a willful citation in the case of a worker’s deadly fall, even though the employer claims the foreman in charge was ignorant of safety requirements that could have prevented the incident, according to a summary written by the law firm of Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP for JD Supra.”  So either in my opinion, we believe the employer is actually that stupid a business person to actually put someone in charge that was ignorant of safety requirements or the employer is lying thinking they would go easy on the fine if he said the foreperson was ignorant of the rules.  Never operate any machinery or perform any job without understanding the dangers and have been trained to properly operate.  The truth is out there, somewhere, but not here.  

Yes, accidents happen, you just never know when that’s why they’re called accidents and not planned.  However, you can minimize accidents by understanding what you are working with and how to prevent the many different ways it can go sideways, but if it does, how to deal with it so you can walk away.  Knowledge is power and never let anyone tell you otherwise, even if they’re just trying to be a nice guy.  Never keep quiet about safety for the life you save may be your own.  Until next month.

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Secrets of the Professionals Revealed That You Can Use at Home.

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Companies spend thousands of dollars each year on sanitation and pest control along with thousands of hours on the training of personnel to properly handle those tasks or spend hours screening and evaluating outside contractors.  Either way, they want to provide the highest level of quality to ensure the best product produced.  The fabulous news is I’m going to share with you their secrets that you can do in your home. 

The professionals know that when the weather changes for the worse or nearby vacant fields are disturbed by construction or an idle facility comes to life, the displaced vermin will find a new place to call home and raise a family but by following these professional tips they won’t find your home a hospitable place and it all begins with the walk around.

The walk around is critical to maintaining any facility.  It’s your way of being proactive, finding what needs to be repaired and getting it done in a timely manner while getting a little exercise.  Walkarounds should be conducted consistently and once a month is an excellent schedule.  Walk the entire perimeter of your home, looking for and making note of the points of entry from the vermin’s point of view.  You are looking for small openings, any small cracks or holes should be noted to be repaired as they don’t need much room to squeeze through.  A mouse can fit through a hole as small as 2 cm/.787 of an inch. while a rat only needs a hole the size of a quarter to gain access to your home.   Also make note of any vegetation, weeds, shrubs or grass that’s abutted up to the house.   That should be cut back or removed since it’s providing cover for the critters.  Are there large gaps underneath the doors to the outside like the side door of the garage?  Is the area where your trash cans/trash bins are stored free and clear of trash, scraps, and clutter and are they sealed properly keeping trash secure from critters?  Take care of repairs right away as procrastination will set you back and create more problems.

Now you’ll do your walk around inside the home.  Again look for openings around valves and pipes under sinks, the furnace/ac, and laundry room.  If they get into the garage and the walls this is how they’ll enter your living areas.  After identifying your problem areas get the needed materials and do the repairs and hole filling immediately.

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To resolve the problem of a large gap under your side doors you can purchase and install a Door Sweep.

 

 

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Trap set by garage side door.

Now, with that accomplished, we’re going to add an extra level of protection by setting traps in different areas not just to trap those unwanted guests but also to alert you if the problem is remaining stable or getting out of hand and needs more attention.  I tried different traps and found some more effective than others.  There is one covered trap, to spare you from seeing the dead, that is the worst with a 40-50% kill rate.  The best trap I found that never missed a beat with a 100% kill rate was Ankace Power Rodent Killer.  I have 6 traps set up, one on each side of the garage roll-up door, one by the garage side door, one on the side of steps leading into the house from the garage, one under the kitchen sink and the last one in the heating/ac closet.   IMG_1818

If the idea of traps bothers you then you can buy bait traps and place those in the same locations as you would the traps and also around the outside of the house.  I have a combination of both around my house.  I also keep non-latex gloves and zip lock bags on hand for those times I have to clear a trap, which by the way hasn’t happened in quite a long time.  If you are doing everything else right you won’t be emptying traps every day and as I said before, the traps are also an alert that something has changed.  Once you have this all in place then set yourself a reminder and check the traps on a regular basis for activity, at least once a week.

Ever wonder how the professionals remember when to clean and how often?  They use a master sanitation schedule that is posted for all to see so they know when what and how.  Next time, we’ll show you how you can use that at home too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Companies Behaving Badly – RESPECT

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Welcome back.  Hope all is going well.  Those of you still committed to your New Year Resolutions, bravo.  Keep it up!

Aretha said it best.

“What you want
Baby, I got it
What you need
Do you know I got it
All I’m askin’
Is for a little RESPECT when you get home (just a little bit).”

Isn’t that all we want from our boss or the company that employs you, for that matter, isn’t it something we should do for each other?  I was raised in the Bronx back in the dark ages (BI-before internet), the 1950’s – 1960’s and along with playing stoop or stickball and watching The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin or Sargent Preston of the Yukon, I was taught the golden rule and to treat others as I wanted them to treat me.  I respected my elders, I respected my teachers, I respected the beat cop and I respected everyone who crossed my path.  There have been a few instances where people haven’t reciprocated and not respected me but gone out of their way to be rude and I don’t see how disrespecting them back would accomplish anything so I said my expletives under my breath and still treated them the same way and moved on. 

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People are always interesting.  Some are rude and disrespectful because they are responding poorly to something that has or is happening in their life.  Some are having a bad day as a customer yelled at them, their boss dumped on them, a loved one disappointed them.  Others are reacting to stress from their job as they struggle to make deadlines in the completion of a project, worried about qualifying for a bonus or promotion, fearing the rumors of a shutdown may be true.  Still, others are jealous, jealous of the way you look, the way you sound, the way you gets things done or the way you wear it better.  At least these folks you can understand where they’re coming from and cut them some slack.  Then there are those who are just plain rude and disrespectful only because you are different than them.  It has nothing to do with your personality or your job performance just your skin color, religious beliefs or the language you speak, and for a very few, some just enjoy being evil.  I just cut them a wide swath as they may just burst into flame and burn to a cinder from all their hate.   

What’s really tough to swallow is when a company doesn’t show you any respect but still expects your undivided loyalty.  They don’t respect you enough to give you training or the tools you need to do the job they hired you to do.  One small company spent time and effort wooing me to come work for them and help turn the company around.  We need you to be part of our new team and help bring this company to the next step and make us great again.  They were losing money, losing product, missed deliveries, horrible inventory control and sending out incomplete orders making customers and our sales staff crazy.  They said it’ll be well worth your time.  The first day on the job, they had no office, no desk, no computer ready for me.  There was a computer on a shelf in the general area that I’m directed too and had to use another sign on since there was none ready for me.  No privacy, nowhere to put confidential files and no place to hold one on ones with staff except a conference room or break room when they were empty.  Ah, but I’m assured that this will be rectified very soon.  The next day I get my sign on and password, things are looking up until I realize after signing on that I still don’t have access to the areas I need to be.  Per the IT manager, who is offsite, that’s what the boss gave him as my profile.  I was beginning to see where the real problem for this company was located.   A month goes by, still, no office, no desk but have the computer on the shelf that several other workers need to access during the day to accomplish their jobs.  Two months go by and still the same but the continued excuses, apologies and promises begin to ring hollow.  Three months go by,  more excuses, more apologies, more promises.  Into the fourth month, I went bye-bye.  A few weeks later one manager was fired as a scapegoat another one quit and two months later the doors closed for good.   

You need to respect a person enough to listen to their questions and concerns without blowing them off.  Who knows what talent and creativity have been stifled or budding careers crushed that would have changed the industry for the better over the years because you couldn’t take a moment and listen.  Companies find many different ways to show no respect to their employees.  Some are very subtle, telling you that your safety is very important to them and is always a primary concern, then put you in unsafe conditions.  Some are more open about it and just plain obstinate by not upgrading with new safety technology when they can until they make headlines by killing innocent people.

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Amtrak could have shown respect for its customers and avoiding all this bad press by doing the right thing in the first place but just keep talking about PTC and now this–Aaron Harris, Passenger Severely Injured in Train Derailment, Files Suit Against Amtrak, According to Luvera Law Firm  Companies that don’t respect the public by doing what they can to protect life and limb should have their board members and executives held accountable up to and including jail time.  Three people are dead and this young man is facing a lifetime of rehabilitation when this could have all been prevented.

There are countries where they do respect the public and workers.  They see the overall picture and understand that to have a high-speed train you have to have a top-notch infrastructure to protect people so they can get to their jobs in one piece.  What a novel concept.  Other Countries Have High-Speed Trains. We Have Deadly Accidents and Crumbling Infrastructure  They see safety as part of the equation to a good life, here most companies see safety as nothing more than a hassle.  Shouldn’t preserving all human life be important and wouldn’t that be easier to handle then deciding which lives are more important than the others?

Then there are companies that have no respect for their neighbors.  No respect for their property or their lives. Duke Energy Agrees To Pay $84K Penalty For Coal Ash Leaks  After years of dumping coal ash and saying they’d take care of it they let it leak into the drinking water and waterways.  Then continues to insult their neighbors by giving then bottled water and wanting to charge for it and then committing only $84,000 for clean up which is going to do nothing to help the situation.  It seems we have learned nothing after the Love Canal.  

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Of course, there are those companies that show no respect to their workers by routinely exposing them to moving belts and spinning gears and no putting guards in place to protect them.  When those conveyor belts are at full speed it takes only the blink of an eye to have a sleeve of your jacket get caught and pulled in.  It happens so fast you barely have time to get out of the jacket let alone hit the emergency stop button.  Before you know it you lost your arm or worse, your life.  Woman Crushed To Death In Plastic Factory Accident  If you have to do maintenance or clear a jam there is only one way to do this and that is Lock Out Tag Out.  You will not beat the machine.  If there is no guarding on moving parts or there is no RED emergency stop button and no one at the company is respecting you and listening to your concerns, call the OSHA hotline and file a complaint. 1 – 800 – 321 – 6742 (OSHA).  

Companies that show even less respect to workers, if that’s possible are repeat offenders.  Companies that violations are found by OSHA and then promise they will fix them because their worker’s safety is important to them.  Then guess what happens next?  They have a re-inspection and those same violations are found once again because they had no intention of fixing them in the first place.  OSHA needs to triple the fines for repeat offenders and executives must attend mandatory safety class.  South Jersey Manufacturer Fined For Continued Safety Violations  
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We need to do a better job of respecting first responders, highway workers, and sanitation drivers.  We’re not off to a good start.  Recently a California Highway Patrol officer lost his life when a drunk driver slammed into the rear of his patrol car that was stopped on the side of the road.  Another officer had both legs broken when he was hit by a vehicle and now 7 sanitation workers had died in the first 10 days of the year!
SWANA: 7 solid waste fatalities in first 10 days of 2018  There is nothing important enough that you have to speed to get there and put others in danger.  There is NO reason to drive drunk or stoned.  There are so many other ways to get home safely that you should use.  Stop being disrespectful to your fellow human beings. 

As you can see, safety is just as much your part as the company you work for and more then ever we need to watch each other back and respect each other.  Never keep quiet about safety, for the life you save may be your own.  Until next month, stay safe.

 

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Companies Behaving Badly – Resolution

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“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man. (person)” – Benjamin Franklin

Happy New Year and welcome back.  It’s that time of year when some of you are actually still following through on your resolution(s) for the new year and I say, bravo to you!  Some of you have already begun using creative excuses to avoid your commitment and some have just plain old completely capitulated.  I’m curious though, why do those of you waste time on making resolutions, when you’re only going to spend more time, energy and creativity on making excuses for not upholding your resolution?  Is it a form of masochistic-procrastination?  (you can comment below).  Of course, there are also those of you who, like me, who don’t bother making resolutions for the new year.  It’s not that I’m perfect and don’t need improvement, far from it.  It’s not that I’m beyond help, or too old to learn a new trick or can’t change my ways.  It is just that this is what works best for me, to make course adjustments as needed throughout the year and taking on different challenges or projects as they pique my interest in relation to self-improvement, training, family, work, travel and play.  

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I didn’t start out with a New Year resolution to become a soccer ref that year but that spring when my daughter began to play and I watched her get bounced around with no calls I knew I could do a better job, so I took the 18 hour course, got my license and began to practice what I preached on the pitch.  With each season I worked on being a better ref because I enjoyed what I was doing.  Watching other refs at work, on the field on T.V. or on videos made be a better ref but it also slowly melded into improving my interpersonal skills as I dealt with players, parents, and coaches.  Whichever way you decide to go, whatever works for you, it should be comfortable for you but please also look at all the choices and experiment, push your comfort zone a little, test one or two out or even take some from one, a little from another it’s totally up to you but you should always do what is going to work best improving YOU and not just to make someone else happy.  Over the years I’ve found one real truth, that people only change their behavior when they really want to change it, so give yourself everything you need to help you make those changes and keep in mind it then takes 21 days to turn an action into a habit.  

However, whether new year resolutions are involved or not some industries will just never get it.  Imagine if all baby strollers on the market were made in a way so that even when you set the brake and let go, the stroller would roll away on it’s own.  No matter what you did, even on a flat surface, the stroller would roll away from you and build up speed as it moved unless you grabbed it.  The cry from the public would be loud and steady, politicians would speak of the horror and push for legislation, television news to would do stories on corresponding tragedies and loss of life.  Safe to say the way strollers were made would be changed all most overnight.  We have this technology called Positive Train Control (PTC) and it’s been around for quite awhile.  Even though it could save lives it’s implementation has been constantly put off by the industry with one excuse or another and aided by the apathy of our political leaders who could have made it mandatory, but then babies aren’t dying, only commuters.  Editorial: End delay to train safety  What are we waiting for, a larger disaster?

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 So not only in our GREAT nation have, we allowed trains to derail or collide but now we are falling behind on worker safety as this tale of two countries demonstrates.  Singapore had a very high rate of death of workers on the job and decided to do something about it.  They put new laws on the books and unlike our country, they actually heavily enforced those laws and now, Workplace deaths fall to a 13-year low while here in the U.S. worker deaths increased by 7% to over 5,000 dead.  Who’s the third world country?  Now more then ever, never keep quiet about safety.

What happens when a companies safety program is free will, you wind up killing employees.  Demolition company fined $101K in Holland Civic Center workplace death.  Upon investigation, Michigan OSHA found 7 violations, 5 of which were directly related to the fatality.  One other worker was seriously injured and now X-Treme Demolition Inc. is facing fines of $101,000 for no fall protection given to workers, no inspections, nothing, cause what could go wrong.  I don’t think the fines are enough and any owner, CEO or manager who purposely puts workers in harm’s way and someone dies due to this should be in jail for manslaughter.  Monetary fines don’t deter companies since they budget for this.  We need to start putting people in prison.

 you'llseehumansacYou’d think by now that when it comes to working in confined spaces companies would have learned by now how dangerous they can be if not following proper guidelines.  Construction Company Cited After Fatal Gas Exposures  Before you go in ask, what was in there before and has the atmosphere been tested to see if it’s clear of any hazardous materials.  Is emergency retrieval equipment in place to get you out of there quickly?  Why this is tragic is when one guy went down the others reacted immediately to save a friend without any thought to their own safety.  Each time they were overcome by fumes in the confined space and died and the company was only fined $59,576 which works out to just under $20,000 per life.  I guess we’re all collateral damage to companies that maintain profits are more important than their worker’s well being.

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The same training, practices and prevention techniques that you receive at work you can apply just as easily to your home.  An industrial kitchen is cleaned often and kept free of debris and systems in place that will keep insects and vermin out and so can you.  At work, they train employees how to use a fire extinguisher and respond to a medical or environmental emergency that may arise and so can you.  Please teach your children early and often about the dangers of fire, matches, and stoves.  FDNY: Bronx Fire Caused By Child Playing With Stove.  Protect your family and your home.  If you have questions about home safety please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Thanks to the new tax laws, companies should have a lot more cash on hand.  How the company spends that extra cash will speak volumes about how they care about their employees.  Some have decided to hand out $1,000 cash bonuses to workers, which is nice but still a drop in the bucket for those barely making minimum wage.  Those companies that take the money and put it into developing and implementing safety programs and PPE to help save workers lives should be touted as companies to work at, but those that just pocket the cash for themselves and continue to allow workers to die in confined spaces, from falls, from neglect should have their names mounted in neon lights so the world can see who they are and to avoid, who to NOT do business with and who to boycott.  Never keep quiet about safety for the life you save may be your own.

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Companies Behaving Badly-Practice What You Preach

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Welcome back. Happy Day of the Dead.

Practice what you preach!  That’s what I was taught as a child growing up on the streets of the Bronx back in the dark ages, (1950’s-60’s).  You practice what you preach, lead by example, do as I do!  So when I first supervised and told workers that their safety was important, I never allowed a corner to be cut for the sake of saving time or looked the other way during horseplay under the guise of boys will be boys.  I practiced what I preached cause I had to answer to one person and one person only.  Myself.  I had to be able to deal with the guilt if someone got hurt because I didn’t do or say something and I knew that wasn’t me.  So I took the path of practicing what I preached and was bullied, ignored, harassed, threatened and fired for doing so.  But I was also rewarded, promoted, appreciated and honored for taking that path at.  The path has always been the same, just different terrains, cultures and experiences. 

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So if we are going to practice what we preach, we can no longer be allowed to use the following phrase as an excuse, “boys will be boys”.  It can no longer be tolerated, embellished, chucked at, shoulder shrugged or eye rolled.  “Boys will be boys.” is no longer an excuse when someone is found at work joy riding on powered industrial equipment or using powered industrial equipment to perform dangerous acts well beyond the safe operation of the equipment.  “Boys being boys” can not only no longer be tolerated in a workplace that wants to have a respected safety program but in ALL aspects of life as it will no longer be an acceptable excuse to explain poor behavior.  Boys will be boys can no longer explain dangerous hazing rituals, drinking initiations or paying your dues.  Boys will be boys will no longer be used to explain inappropriate touching, verbal abuse and degrading of women.  You’d think by time you get to the age of adulthood and begin working for a living the practical jokes suffered in elementary school, the bullying of JHS and the initiations of freshmen and overall silliness of high school would be done.  Yet  it never seems to end, as boys will be boys.

So we deal with this like we do with everything else.  Our leaders decide we need new laws.  Not just any new laws but new and improved laws with teeth because the old laws didn’t work as well.  But as we all know, laws or rules or regulations are only as good as they’re enforced!   While the news media covers the making of the new laws along with the names of the brilliant leaders who give us the new laws, it tells us, they must be solving our problem.  I no longer have to worry since we have such great new laws!  Soon the fanfare dies down and the new laws are treated just like the old laws, lapses in coverage, uneven enforcement, not consistent for all and then those who are rich will get around the new laws and those that are poor will do the time, but then, thats just boys being boys.

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When Police officers and firefighters see something odd in a warehouse, like people living there when they shouldn’t, electrical wires and extension cords running all over and wall to wall junk no matter what the law, if they don’t say something, nothing happens people may die and even if they do say something and nothing is done up the line, again, the laws are useless since people still die.  It’s up to all of us, Men and Women working together to help enforce them.  We are people folks.  All born the same way and no matter what our packaging is, white, black, yellow or red we are all gray in our heads and red in our arteries and blue in our veins.  We need to protect each other.

One of the good things about practicing what you preach is you could prevent yourself from being blown-up.  Foreman didn’t follow protocol before Detroit explosion, manager says.  Sounds like a rookie mistake but the foreman, Anthony Tower, 62, had decided that even though he was trained and probably trained others to use water only to wash out the bin.  He wanted to give his two workers an important lesson on, do as I say not as I do, and took a metal shovel to clear the bin wall which created a spark and the following explosion.  Surprise!  Luckily no one died but they were all sent to the hospital for treatment with one worker sustaining bad burns.  As much as the foreman didn’t follow protocol, I have found that workers are lax on safety and procedure when the culture, created by management, allows it.  I say that because this company Northeast Agricultural Sales, Inc. was fined in 2014 for 10 safety violations after a bin collapsed and injured a worker.  Do it right the first time and live a happy life with all your limbs.

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When it comes to “practice what you preach” what is the time frame?  WV DEP found problems at Parkersburg warehouse earlier this year, records show.  If you didn’t know, the Parkersburg warehouse had burned for 8 days!  Yes, over a week and the smoke was toxic and no one knows what’s really burning since the company won’t say and probably have no idea themselves.  They were inspected by the state earlier this year and they found all kinds of violations that indicated continued problems at the facility such as their unsatisfactory general housekeeping while operations, maintenance and storage were found marginal and nothing was done.  Waste and pellets were scattered around the site, a diesel spill had not been fully cleaned up, deteriorating storage drums exposed to the elements as well as not submitted required monthly progress reports and still, nothing was done.  Two local volunteer firefighters had warned nearly a decade before that this could be a potential major fire and yet nothing was done.  Just boys being boys under the poor leadership of morally bankrupt morons.

When it comes to practice what you preach I find industry groups are the best at promoting their industry but the worst at telling the truth of the safety of their product or their own preachings. They say they don’t need no government watchdog but that they can regulate and monitor themselves and not kill anyone in the process.  The American Petroleum Institute just flat out ignored the problem when they failed to respond to concerns about oil train safety even after a town was obliterated from the map when 47 of it’s residents were vaporized by a derailed oil train.  American Petroleum Institute Failed to Respond to Concerns of Oil Train Safety.  Even though they supply the railroad with their oil cars they don’t care after that, it’s in the railroads hands and their problem now.  When we hear of the horrors of mass shootings or trucks running over as many people as possible we wonder how people can be so heartless to take a life yet we sit by and allow industries to put dangerous railcars on the tracks, store chemicals in reckless fashion, pollute the air and poison our water.  Fyi, it’s still murder, just a lot more subtle about it. 

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It’s always interesting to see how a company reacts to adversity.  When Tesla began to fall behind on meeting it’s production goals and had a rash of industrial accidents, so instead of looking at their safety and training program they,  Tesla fired hundreds of employees in past week.  Sounds like the way to go and just gives workers more reason to want the union in place to protect them.

Speaking of training,  The top five workplace safety issues faced by small Aussie businesses revealed.  Australia has rolled out new workplace rules and regulations and like with any new program the literature and training is not helping much as small companies are concerned about the complexity of the rules and constant changing along with the paperwork.  Let’s hope the government offers lots of patience and tolerance as people adjust.  Maybe a better way of getting the message out is in order as well.

Building a better death trap.  OSHA Investigation Finds Hazards Remain at North Jersey Warehouse.  What began as an employee complaint, OSHA came in and found blocked exit routes, blocked electrical panels and struck by hazards so they cited the company in February.  OSHA returned recently and found that just about nothing had been fixed and workers were still being exposed to hazards so this time they’ve been hit with a potential fine of $181,280.  It would have been much cheaper just to fix things in the first place but some companies just have to do it the hard way and that’s why you should never keep quiet about safety.  If it doesn’t look right and appears dangerous, then it probably is.  Say something and if you’re ignored called the OSHA hotline 1-800-321-6742.

Back quickly to Australia.  They are doing something that is happening more in this country.  That is giving out prison sentences if a worker dies due to company negligence.  Yes,  Industrial Manslaughter – Up to 20 Years Imprisonment and Maximum AUD10 Million Fine for Corporate Offenders.

  angerissueburning dIt is amazing that the San Francisco Bay area, teeming with entrepreneurial spirit, rich in investors, and near by silicon valley that we are saddled with two of the most inept companies.  PGE has had a vacuum in leadership for years now, as profits became more important then human lives and BART, the transit company that made dummy surveillance cameras and dummy transit cops a thing.  State agency slaps BART with a nearly $220,000 fine for worker deaths  Their continued lack of leadership earned them a $220,000 fine from CalOSHA for the deaths of two maintenance workers hit by a train.  The incident exposed BART’s horrible training program for new train drivers and the lack of communication about scheduled maintenance and repairs and protecting workers.

True trickle down economics, California style.  Legal marijuana causes warehouse rent to skyrocket in Sacramento – 4 or 5 times normal

That brings this episode of Companies Behaving Badly to a close.  Thanks for stopping by and taking time out of your busy day.  Please feel free to use any of these stories at your next safety tailgate/toolbox meeting.  Safety is everybody’s job, don’t be afraid to ask questions, do your own research on the web.  It’s you life.  Until next time, please never keep quiet about safety, for the life you save may be your own.

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