Companies Behaving Badly-To Life

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Welcome back.

We all talk about how important life is.  Our religious leaders teach us how precious life is, we have 24/7 suicide hotlines to help prevent the premature ending of life, we have doctors who are sworn to do everything they can to keep life going and we respect and honor those first responders who put their lives on the line to keep our lives from expiring.  However in reality, we don’t act like we really care about life at all.

Instead we behave like Lilliputians and the Blefuscu, so desperate to be right, so desperate to win, there is no open honest discussion, there can be no consensus just hatred because you don’t like the way the other one breaks open their eggs and if they can’t crack them open like you do, they’re not worthy of life.  That would be like shooting your husband just because he hung the toilet paper in the opposite direction.  (Yes, I know you’ve thought it, but didn’t carry it out.)  We cut off other vehicles, cause we’re special and important without a thought what the end result could be, death.  We have fistfights in a metal tube cruising at 35,000 feet without thought of what the result could be, death.  We bash in someone’s brains just for cheering on the visiting team without a thought of the end result, death and prison.  We shoot at strangers on the freeway, cause, hey why the hell not and no thought what the result could be.  

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So with all that going on and all the training sessions, certifications, re-certifications, safety meetings, safety tailgates/toolboxes, drills, tests and news stories, we, in the name of expediency and under the guise of “just this time”, continue to find new ways to severely injure or kill ourselves because for that fleeting moment, we believe we’re ingenuous and immortal but for too many this reality fades too fast and in the blink of an eye, they’re dead.  No body cares that you saved 10 minutes by stacking paint containers instead of getting a ladder, you’re dead.  No one cares that you were mocking the boss right before you slipped and fell off the roof, you’re dead.  No one cares how may times you could spin the forklift, you’re dead.  They’re all in shock, stare at your dead corpse.  You no longer exist, in fact you’re now a burden.  The OSHA inspection, the internal inspection, the workers comp insurance company inspection, lawyers, courts, fines and settlements.  Meanwhile your body has be moved, cold stored, autopsied, prepped and buried/cremated.  

You’ll be remembered when the old timers are sitting around with the rookies at break and share their stories of the day you died, where they were, what they saw and over the years the story will expand and change to one of epic proportions and no where near the true story, but then, it won’t matter to you, you’re dead.

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This is a company that only cares about money and how much the owner can line his pockets with as he had the nerve to blame the large OSHA fine for Layoffs Triggered by Large OSHA Fine.  Aluminum Shapes was hit with a $1,922,895 fine for all the safety violations in the plant and this includes several workers receiving chemical burns while working in a tank that still contained corrosive material.  To add insult to injury they told them to return to work after their hospital visit.  Another worker got a broken pelvis and also was told to get back work.  Rather then offering leadership and taking responsibility for his actions, he turned and laid off workers using the large fine as to why.  He created the problem but blames OSHA for the layoffs but he may have done those workers a favor, since now they can’t get injured or killed.  What a man.  There seems to be quite a few immature, unprepared leaders around.  You do not have to put up with this kind of treatment and why would you want to die here?

Another company that believes safety is fake news, Fall hazards net roofing contractor over $1.5 million in OSHA fines.  Great White Construction Inc. was cited for 14 workplace violations, 11 of them Willful.  As I’ve told you before, a willful violation means the company knew the hazard was there and that someone could die from it but did NOTHING about it. This also earned them a spot in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program since their concern for employee safety is nonexistent.  They gave them harnesses to wear, so I guess it would look good, but didn’t tie them off to rope grabs and roof anchors.  In other words, if you fall you will probably die.  Learn what is proper fall protection suppose to look like and be.  Don’t put yourself in harms way for someone who doesn’t care.  Say no.  

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News flash, when people have to work more OT and longer hours, accidents increase. Research: Workplace Injuries Are More Common When Companies Face Earnings Pressure.  I’m guessing you already knew this.  We’ve all seen it at the factory, sales over sells and with short time lines to make it interesting,  Raw goods, packaging, parts, materials all need to be ordered, production goes into full gear.  With the Over time and extra work days, plus what’s going on at home and your world it begins to take it’s toll with fatigue, weary muscles and sore parts. Judgement becomes impaired, something gets missed and a mistake happens and you’re hurt.  It’s tough, I’ve been there.  When one of our plants went offline due to Katrina we had to help make up the difference in lost production and worked 27 straight days.  People were exhausted, we found one guy who fell asleep in his car in the parking lot after his wife called looking for him.  When we woke him he wasn’t sure if he was going home or coming to work.  One employee had a serious car crash when she fell asleep at the wheel.  We also had a sharp increase in cuts and abrasions. The schedules could have been made more employee friendly with a few more breaks thrown in, but then management’s attitude was push them until they break.  The end result was we lost a few good employees who quit or retired after that streak.  Was it worth it, I guess it depends on who you ask. 

Veterans, opportunities in construction and manufacturing are there and make for a very good career.  Check out this free, no cost 10 hour OSHA general safety course.  NO COST Osha 10 Hour General Safety Course 09/30 & 10/01/2017 @ Cal State University Fullerton

My two favorite examples of companies that lack leadership and competence were in the news again.  PGE where safety is important, sometimes, Collapsed Crane Lifted Off Campbell Home Amid PG&E, Cal/OSHA Investigation.  Can’t wait to read the final report on this one and see if lack of training was the root cause.  I’ll be sure to follow up on this one.  

And then BART was at it again showing just how incompetent their leadership really is. Anyone need a Clipper card? BART has thousands after Warriors parade blunder.  BART’s geniuses have a half million dollars tied up in Clipper cards, just sitting in boxes doing nothing but collecting dust and not interest.  They’ve demonstrated their incompetence several times and we agree, they are incompetent so let’s move on and get some new brains in there.  Maybe folks who have mass transit experience.  In fact we need to look at how the whole operation is run and eliminate the current board and bring in people who know what they’re doing, not politicians.

Well that’s it for this month.  Enjoy the last of your summer and now more then ever, treat everyone the same way, with respect.  Just because they come in different packaging doesn’t mean they are better then you, worse then you, they’re just different then you.  Vive la dif·fé·rence!!  Diversity works on so many levels by getting a different POV, different ways to solutions.  However, some people are just assholes.  They will always be that way and they will always be around with their negative energy and view points.  Don’t let assholes sour you on other people, just ignore them.  Never keep quiet about safety for the live you save may be your own.

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A Complete Guide To Warehouse Safety – Volume I – Begin With Basics

 

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As Dorothy emerged from the modular office she looked around for any signs of life.  A moan, a groan any sound would be nice even the sound of Pete’s voice but where the heck did she land?  “Are you a good inspector or a bad inspector?” the voice from the bushes asked.  Dorothy was happy to hear a voice but also startled as she thought no one to be around.  Who’s that Dorothy yelled?  As she emerged from the brush she again asked, “Are you a good inspector or a bad inspector?”  I’m not an inspector at all, I’m a machinist.  “Are you sure?  You’re not here to find out why that module fell out of the sky and landed on, killing the wicked inspector of the east?”  Dorothy walked over to where she pointed and to her horror saw two legs, wearing work boots sticking out from under the module.  OMG! That’s not my fault, the tornado dropped me here.  “That may be, but when the wicked inspector of the west finds out what happened you’re sure to be in trouble.”  Trouble!  I didn’t…I don’t want trouble…I want to go home.  “Well my dear, you’ll have to go to the Emerald city and see the head of OSHA and report this incident. You only have 24 hours to do so and a long journey ahead so I suggest you don’t delay and begin right now.  First, those ruby steel toed boots will help protect and ensure a safe journey.”  Before she could blink an eye, the work boots that were on the dead inspector of the east were now on Dorothy’s feet.  But how do I get to the Emerald City?  I don’t even know where I am now.  Smiling and shaking her head, “Dorothy, it’s so easy, just follow the green brick road of safety.” 

As Dorothy will tell you the green brick road of safety is not a fairy tale, myth or urban legend. It is a real path that YOU, the staff, management, facility, outside contractors and company should be hiking along together.  To ensure a continuous and consistent safe working environment lets begin with basics.  

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You need to review your overall operation at least once a year, from the receiving dock to manufacturing to the shipping area including the outside area around your facility.  The best time to accomplish this is during your slow period or shutdown which varies for all as for some it’s after the holidays, and others during the summer or year end. The other times you should take a look at your operation is when opportunities like a accident, near miss or when new equipment, machinery or production lines present themselves.  Don’t wait, don’t put this off as it is easier to correct a problem now before it gets to far out of hand.  However, your good intentions, (which I’ve been told paves the road to hell) will mean nothing if you continuously make excuses as to why you put off doing the review. Sorry to keep stressing this but I’ve seen how procrastination can be a stumbling block to getting this done and then someone gets injured or killed.  Oh yea, we meant to fix that and now it’s too late.  OSHA is going over your records with a fine tooth comb and employees are with lawyers giving depositions who are then filling suits.  You want to avoid that.

Yes, I  know what it’s like and what’s involved and how each day can be hectic and challenging in a warehouse or manufacturing facility  but when you keep making excuses to put it off another day, you’re only kidding yourself.  That’s why, first work and develop your time management skills an give yourself a schedule with a plan with blocks of time and days you’ll work on this.  Remember, you’re in control and the one who manages your time.  It was one of the hardest things I learned to do but I was able to accomplish it.  There are books on time management that can help you but I found you have to want to do it and after 21 days it’ll become a habit.

Even though a job safety analysis is usually completed by someone trained and certified in the field of industrial safety and can be a in-house safety manager or an outside consultant, there is no reason as a manager, supervisor or employee you shouldn’t be familiar with the process and understand what a hazard is and why.  As you spend time on the shop floor, about 80% of your time, observing and being available to your staff, there’s a chance you may even spot a safety hazard and correct it long before it can become a problem.  Not all safety hazards are physical in nature like from moving parts or power source.  Lack of training is also a hazard to that employee, other employees and the company.  Review and update training records of your staff to make sure it’s current and compliant. Which employees have been trained on emergency shut off, handling liquid spills, containing hazardous spills, lock out tag out, shelter and place, forklift battery or propane tank change and maintenance and so on.  Make a list of who is lacking training in a specific area and those who may need a refresher.

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Now you can begin your walk around the facility and identify potential hazards.  The analysis starts as we watch and observe each movement and action an employee takes as they complete their assigned daily tasks looking for any source of potential damage, harm or adverse health effects on that person under the conditions at work.  Some are obvious as an open hole in the floor that someone can fall through, missing railing to prevent falls, exposed wires.  In addition are there moving machinery parts or conveyor belts in close proximity to them?  Any piece of equipment, machinery or conveyor system that is operated by or near working employees, needs to be checked for pinch points, inadequate or lack of guards from flywheels, gears, shafts, pulleys, keyways, belts, sprocket chains and any other moving parts as one can easily get a shirt sleeve or limb caught in those moving parts and pulled into the machinery. For the equipment that requires to be fed by hand, oiled, adjusted or requires maintenance, do employees know and understand LOTO procedures, (Lock Out and Tag Out) before performing any of those tasks.  As employees manually load machines with labels, cartons and tape or physically move product to a pallet, are they over reaching to grab an item (strains), are they off-balance or have incorrect posture while they lift (back strains), and exhibiting other poor ergonomics like bending, or twisting the torso for long periods of time? 

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Some hazards may not be as obvious like poor air quality, leaking gases or dust particulates in the air.  What ventilation system or PPE can help that situation?  Forklifts, the workhorse of every facility unfortunately account for a large percentage of accidents and also cause at least 100 deaths a year in this country.  So when we begin our observations in the dock area where the most action occurs as items are delivered, shipped, cross-docked and put away. the main issues here involve forklifts being driven off the loading dock, forklifts striking or pinning employees, and products falling onto employees. These incidents are related to the following hazards; slick or wet floors (rain water, other liquid spills, ice) that is not cleaned up immediately, improper use of forklifts, including excessive speeds, not honking horn coming out of trailers or at blind intersections, trailers pulling out of dock while unloading is still in process, not paying attention while driving, improper stacking or over stacking of product, use of broken wooden pallets, forks left raised in air while moving product and striking overhead fixtures or my pet peeve, horseplay.  Warehouses are just as much in need of professional behavior and the front office.  There is not room for horseplay or other immature activities as people usually wind up hurt.  If there is time for this kind of behavior in your facility, then you then you’re over staffed.  

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Which bring me to, establishing and enforcement of the rules of the road at your facility and again, the rules only work when they  are enforced so the consequences for infractions must be clearly spelled out including those for horseplay and should not only cover your employees but outsiders like truck drivers and vendors as well.

Now as you walk around the remainder of the facility be sure to check in the battery recharging room or refueling station. Do you have an operating eye wash station and/or shower to deal with acid spills on a individual?   There is always the chance of an acid spill from a battery charged immediately after refilling with water (not proper procedure). Does the battery room have a venting system to prevent vapors from accumulating and creating a possible explosion hazard. Is there a spill kit and PPE available such a goggles, face shield and gloves? PPE, (Personal Protection Equipment).  In fact, any task an employee does in the warehouse ask yourself is there any PPE that’ll make the job safer to perform? Besides goggles, gloves, ear plugs, bump cap/hard hat, face shield, dusk mask, what would offer better protection?

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Continue with your critical eye now focused on fire safety. Make sure fire extinguishers or fire hoses are accessible and are NOT blocked and overhead sprinkler heads are not being used to hand signs or are damaged.  Are the extinguishers clearly labeled at there location? If there is a label but no extinguisher either remove the label or get an extinguisher. Have the fire extinguishers and sprinkler system been inspected within the year and in working order and are the hoses properly rolled and encased?  More items to check: emergency exits not blocked with materials, exit signs light up, emergency lighting works, electrical panels not blocked, poor housekeeping habits like wood debris & trash on floor. Are storage areas full of clutter and disorganized and how are you storing those flammable liquids? They should be stored separately in a clearly marked metal cabinet. Are aerosol cans, parts and tools piling up at workstations or the window sills and floor? Are walkways free of clutter? High pressure hoses clearly marked? Is there a particular spot where you can bump your head, cut your hand or trip and fall? You see, depending on your operations, the hazards can be numerous!  Lastly but not least, are there plans for any new equipment or production lines to be installed in the upcoming year?  When installing new machinery get input from your workers, don’t just listen to the vendor?  My experience has taught me this is a big mistake as they usually don’t take your facility and hazards into consideration.  When you install new equipment or upgrade machinery or change operating procedures, make it the habit to automatically do a job safety analysis to make sure your employees can continue to work in a safe environment. Make sure it’s not blocking emergency routes or exits and is additional PPE needed and most important, training on the new equipment and procedures.   Put the procedures in writing and place in a binder and then given to each employee.  Don’t wait until someone is injured, in fact another good source would be your insurance carrier or HR department.

The Green Brick Safety Road is a long one and Dorothy has just begun her journey. Please join us next month for the next segment of this experience.  

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The Green Brick Road of Safety-A Chronicle

 

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Dorothy was a machine operator for over 10 years at the Lyon Metals Processing Plant, during which time she attended numerous safety meetings.  At least once a year the topic the safety manager covered in detail was how employees were to respond in the event of an emergency evacuation for either a fire, hazardous spill or natural disaster.  Her first line supervisor also held safety tailgates at least once a week and spoke on occasion about tornados, shelter and place and evacuations.  However, Dorothy never thought it important enough to really pay attention to any of the lectures nor even bothered to read the many multi colored company hand outs, explaining what to do and where to meet if an evacuation were to ever occur.  They just lined the bottoms of her locker and car floor and on occasion were used to jot a shopping list.  Dorothy thought if an emergency ever did come up she would just follow the lead of her fellow workers and go where they go and along with the fact she had worked all these years without incident gave her enough of a false sense of security that she didn’t worry or felt concerned about her safety at the plant.

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The day began as one of those quiet uneventful Saturday mornings at the plant.  Dorothy volunteered to work overtime so she could buy new halloween decorations, she loved halloween.  Dorothy wasn’t working alone, since her company believed for safety reasons no one could be at or work alone.  Her partner had stepped away for a break while Dorothy hung back to finish making a few adjustments when the weather quickly turned ugly and the uneventful Saturday turned into a tornado watch that was issued for the county.   Then… it happened.

As Dorothy continued, solely focused on her machine, the shelter and place alarm began to sound.  Dorothy didn’t know what to do, she didn’t know whether the number of blasts of the horn meant fire and evacuate or shelter and place or lunch!   She stood there looking frantic, her partner never came back, there was no one else around to ask, no one around to follow, what should I do!  As the tornado came bearing down on the Lyon Metals plant, the alarm blasts repeated, her mind raced, she tried hard to think, then the building began to shake and windows rattled and the skies got darker.  It was happening all too fast, she was distracted with all the activity and sounds.  Now the roof over her began to peel away exposing the gray spinning clouds of the tornado.  She froze in fear and waited her fate when suddenly, she remembered the sign in the shipping modular office that said, “shelter”!  She turned to run to the modular office only feet away as the walls began to buckle and she dodged the flying shop materials like a running back.  Just as she made it into the office, it was ripped off the floor as the tornado pulled it up into the sky.  Dorothy watched in horror as the modular office spun and rose high in the air until a desk, sliding across the floor knocked her hard to the ground.

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Dorothy sat up and looked out the dispatchers window and realized the office module was still spinning around within the tornado. There was movement outside the office that caught the corner of her eye.  It was Bob!  OMG, Bob got sucked up into the tornado too!  Bob was the accident prone maintenance man who has electrocuted himself several times, never using LOTO.  He once set himself on fire after washing his dirty hands with gasoline and then tried to light a cigarette.  hHere he was just flying around with a broom in his hand. Maybe I should get his attention.  Wait!  Isn’t that Tom in his electric car?  Our CFO and head bean counter?!  Tom believes putting money into safety prevention is a waste of money.  Isn’t it funny to see him here in the twister with me.  Dorothy pulled herself up off the floor and slid open the counter window.  Tom!  Tom, over here!  “I don’t think he can hear you”, the voice behind her said.  Dorothy turned around and there was Pete, the forklift driver.  Pete didn’t like following the rules for forklifts, he believed that pedestrians needed to watch out for him, not the other way around.  She asked Pete, what are you doing here?  “Well I was about to overload the tail end of that trailer so he gets stopped at the scales BUT it looks like we’re coming down for a landing now.  Hold tight, we’re coming in hard and fast.”  Dorothy shut her eyes tight and grabbed hold of the desk that had knocked her over and prayed when everything went black!

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She awoke, lying on the floor and took a quick self inventory to find only a large but painful bump on the back of her head.  As she looked around the office, she had no idea how long she had been out.  It was very quiet, the loud train sound of the tornado was gone and the office wasn’t moving any longer but there was also no noise or activity going on outside.  No emergency vehicles, no heavy equipment, nothing.  She stood up as sore as she was and called out, Pete!  She saw no Pete or anyone else in the office as the sun shinning through the windows highlighted the rubble mess .  She thought, maybe they’re all outside waiting for help?  She stepped out of the modular office that was sitting in the middle of a green brick path.  There was no one around.  Nothing.  Just the path, trees, an unrecognizable terrain and Dorothy knew, she wasn’t in Kansas any more.

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Her journey begins.  Don’t miss an episode, get witzshared delivered directly by email.

 

 

RBMB – Non Profit Safety

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My Thursday thoughts for National Safety Month.  It Really Burns My Butt when I read about a tragedy like this and decided to do something about it.
Any workplace tragedy is just heartbreaking for everyone involved, the company, fellow workers, friends and the family most of all.  However when it occurs at a non-profit organization struggling to meet commitments to the community it can be a large financial loss they can’t afford.  Not enough can be said about the critical role non-profit organizations play in this day and age.  They can mean the difference between life and death for people whether the aid comes in the aftermath of a natural disaster, in the form of fresh fruits and vegetables or just helping the less fortunate get a hot meal and place to sleep.  They operate like a real company usually having a director, board members, various levels of supervision, a mission statement but don’t make a profit and heavily rely on public monetary donations and the of thousands of hours of contributed labor by volunteers to keep them going.  With the seasonality and turnover in volunteers sometimes it difficult to keep track of people and training. 
When I read  Goodwill fined more than $100K after worker’s gruesome death and how Abraham Nicholas Garza, 26, died on September 30, 2016 when his head was crushed during the operation of a trash compactor.  A fellow worker witnessed the whole grisly scene play out.  The Cal/OSHA investigation found several violations and issued fines totaling $106,675 which will unfortunately take a bite out of their budget.  The most serious violation being willful-serious meaning the employer was aware of a hazardous condition and didn’t bother to take reasonable steps to address it.  Per Cal/OSHA’s report, “None of the authorized employees including Garza were provided training in the safe operation of the compactors at the front and back loading dock areas”.  Reminds me of the late 60’s when I worked in a supermarket and the only training was watching the other guy operate it, if he’d let you.  How many of you remember business coming to a stand still because “the guy” was not there and no one else knew how too adjust and operate it?
The lack of training for volunteers is a serious issue and more widespread then you think.  I had volunteered to working in the warehouse for a local food bank where I spent my time sorting out the contents of food donation barrels as well as packaging bags of fresh fruits and vegetables for distribution.  I was looking forward to seeing what and how they did their training but the only training received my entire time there was watching a video explaining that canned goods and other non-perishable food items can be accepted up to a year after the printed expiration date.  The info was good to know and then I waited with anticipation on the next video on safety, would it be one I’ve seen before or even used myself to show employees.  Alas, there was no training on what to do in the event of a earthquake or other emergency.  There was no training on where the evacuation assembly area was located.  There were no evacuation route signs posted. The sign in sheet that was kept in the warehouse was the only official way they knew who was there and for how long each day.  That was good but in the event of a fire or earthquake this information would NOT be accessible or available for the first responders.  This warehouse was like all others with steel racking but the empty donation barrels were stacked in rows, 6 high along a wall in the warehouse.  The wall of barrels was tagged with sporadic strips of packing tape across two or three barrels like this would hold it together in the event of an earthquake.  These barrels would topple and come down hard injuring and trapping anyone nearby
Unfortunately that’s the situation of the non-profits today, with a lack of proper training and leadership with little to no real expertise and experience in the industry while having to wear several hats and simultaneously dealing with a vast number of volunteers.  If you don’t have the experience it’s difficult to keep track of what training is needed and who’s received it and must be done to protect everyone in the facility since even in a non-profit warehouse, dedicated to helping others, needs to remember that they will at one time or another will be ground zero and the emergency.  We all know all to well that it’s very easy to sit back and criticize an operation for it’s faults so that’s why in the spirit of National Safety Month, I am offering my services and experience in workplace safety free of charge to any non-profit within a 25 mile radius of my home, Vallejo, California.  Together we will identify hazards and you’ll learn how to make a plan to mitigate them so all volunteers can work in your facility and not worry about their safety.
Safety is not fun or glamorous but it does impact lives.  Be a safety mentor.

RBMB-What’s Wrong With Having Fun?

 

 

It was finally shut down day.  After 10 days straight of production on graveyard, it was over and the only thing standing between me and some much needed sleep and family time was the morning production meeting. This rotation, I would be in the first group out the door, smiling and waving on my way out the door to those who still had to deal with finishing the plant shut down.  As the meeting ended and handed the operation off to day shift it was full speed out the door when my boss uttered those words you don’t want to hear, stay back a minute.  Ugh!  I was so close.  The lead superintendent, myself and our boss  were the only ones left when he said.  “Your crew produced some exceptional numbers this rotation and after last night, really put us in excellent position for a smooth shutdown.  You did a great job this shift.”  I smiled, thanked him for the complement, and then added, and they had fun doing it!  As soon as the word fun left my mouth the lead superintendent exploded with, “There it goes again!  What is all this fun nonsense?  They’re not paid to have fun, they’re paid to do a job!”  

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For the record, I never did like this man at all, ever.  He was old school, he told off color jokes, he bullied workers, he was mean just for the sake of being mean.  He was very disruptive to the whole operation at times but had been with the company for a long time and knew where all the skeletons were buried which worked to his benefit, that is until we were bought out by another company.  He didn’t last long, but I digress.  The lead continued, “I heard you also bought them pizza last night?” Yes, I did, they earned it and turned to our boss and said, do you have a problem with our production numbers and pizza?  He smiled back, put his feet up on his desk and answered, “Have a great shutdown and have some fun, you earned it.”

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There is nothing wrong with having fun at work. The manufacturing and food processing industries don’t have to be depressing and stifling.  If your employees really enjoy not only what they are doing, but are also appreciated for what they contribute within a positive environment, confidence in themselves grows and safety and productivity soars.  You should know that fun doesn’t mean having forklift races or burning rubber in the warehouse but it does mean you can have a yearly forklift rodeo to recognize and reward the safest operators in your facility.  Fun can take the form of handing employees a token each time they’re observed doing a safe act or wearing all their proper PPE.  Workers can later redeem the tokens collected for snacks, lunch or favorite team’s hat or shirts.  Fun doesn’t involve micromanaging staff to the point where no one cares anymore about what’s going on but you can have fun listening to employee ideas, improved productivity suggestions and safety improvement recommendations.  Fun can also include a monthly potluck meal and recognition of workers for their contributions on all shifts.  These are just a few simple ideas to keep fun in your workplace.  What are some things you do?

Never keep quiet about safety, for the life you save may be your own.

 

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Companies Behaving Badly-Surprise!

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Welcome back and thank you for stopping by.  When the long standing family owned and operated company I was working for was bought by a large corporation, needless to say there were many different employee responses to the sale.  Reactions ran from pure panic to the philosophical, it’ll be what it’ll be while as some just up and quit rather then face an unknown future.  In the blink of an eye we also became top heavy as we went from the two brothers who lead the company for decades to a leadership posse that consisted of a President and 5 VP’s.  Naturally they brought in more of their people since our people were apparently not ready to operate the place even though we had operated the place long before their arrival.  We had to demonstrate we were fit in body and mind to do so.  They brought and introduced us to their culture, their customs, their policies, their procedures during hours of indoctrination in classroom settings and at the end we got new, thick, really cool looking employee manuals.  Then they observed us and soon passed judgement on us as on a dark rainy Friday, the cleansing began, early, quick and after lots of tears and goodbyes, folks were escorted off and then that following Monday,  we all began our new  journey.

One of the things they brought over from their culture that I really liked besides the twenty new choices of tea and latte machine was their surprise inspection team.  They had a corporate team who’s job was to travel and inspect all the plants across the country. What made it so unique at the time was they weren’t the usual, hey we’ll be there this Monday at 10 so you have a day or two to spruce up and get ready.  This team was HEY, good morning, we’re here!  Like a relative showing up at your door first thing in the morning, unannounced, they saw your plant as it really was and plant and department managers were graded on the results and it went on your permanent record.  Those scores were important since one of their policies had plant managers rotate plants every two years and your high scores could get you that juicy assignment to a state of the art plant to operate.

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I always thought it ridiculous to be told that we’re being inspected next week or having high ranking corporate visitors so get your departments clean and ready and usually what followed was nothing more then a dog and pony show with no one actually looking at the plant.  That’s why I came to enjoy the concept of surprise inspections, you had to do the job the right way, every day.  Surprise inspections are a great way to not only keep people on their toes but to ensure that the corporate policies, practices and procedures, as well as all the hours of training are being followed.  As you will see in the stories below this is especially critical when it comes to safety and operation of a clean and healthy facility.  

You can always conduct your own surprise inspections no matter your situation.  As a warehouse manager I only touched base with the night picking supervisor when I arrived at 6 a.m.  However, at least once a month I would show up at 3:45 a.m. or 2 a.m. just to see how the operation was going and ensure all safety procedures were being used.  It was also a great opportunity to bring snacks and coffee and spend some time listening to the staff.  It’s easy to get into a set routine and each day is like every other day but that’s when complacency can rear it’s ugly head.  Make life and your job interesting, don’t be predictable and bring a little surprise to your life.

Michigan plans surprise inspections of demolition sites – Now granted, this surprise inspection program was not proactive but spurred by a Detroit Free Press newspaper investigation that pretty much exposed Michigan’s workplace safety agency as a joke and not protecting workers from exposure to hazards like asbestos.  This article actually woke up the agency and they vowed to do surprise unannounced inspections at demolition sites for the next month and assigned 6 inspectors to the program.  Whether this is just another dog and pony show, time will tell but this would be a fantastic tool to use at all construction sites to make sure fall protection gear is being used.  With falls still the number 1 killer it’s time we become proactive instead of reactive.

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Another reason surprise inspections are good is to make sure all your plants are handling safety the proper way.  In this case, one company  Cedarburg company cited by OSHA in March death of lathe operator thought it was a great idea to increase productivity by programming the computer to bypass the safety interlocks that prevent workers from coming into contact with moving parts.  As a result of this brilliance a worker was pulled into the operating spindle and died two day later from his injuries.  I’m sure they were shut down during the investigation and were handed a proposed fine of $125,000 so what ever they saved is gone.  Hopefully Carlson Tool and Manufacturing Corporation will properly reward the genius that came up with this idea with a termination from employment.  However I still contend, that anyone who bypasses safety protocol on a machine that results in an employee death should be put on trial for manslaughter and sit in a jail cell to contemplate that profit is not more important than human life.

Then there are corporations that not only don’t believe in surprise inspections but don’t believe in communicating or training their store managers on workplace safety and expose their employees and customers to unnecessary hazards.  Southeast MO Dollar General facing nearly $98,000 fine by OSHA   Dollar General stores all over the country have been inspected and fined for their totally lack of concern for safety as some have been reported to OSHA by employees.  From blocked emergency exits to poorly labeled and stored chemicals this company must have OSHA listed as a vendor as they pay out just about monthly as another store is fined day after day.  If the company really cared about the safety of their employees the corporation not only would have strongly communicated this to it’s stores but would have put together a surprise inspection team to hit each store and then educate the managers and workers on what needs to be changed.  I’m available Dollar Stores, just call me for pricing.

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One last time why surprise inspections are beneficial.  When you walk around and observe a plant in action you can tell what kind of training, if any, workers have had.  Everyone knows how dangerous a busy loading dock can be with forklifts, trucks and people in constant action.  It’s not a place to lose your concentration and you need to be aware of your surroundings as in  OSHA investigating worker’s death at Omaha meatpacking plant .  A worker was pinned between two trailers and died because a simple procedure wasn’t followed.  The accident is currently under OSHA investigation and I will report their findings as soon as they’re available.

Whether you’re a worker, supervisor, manager or chairperson of the board, OSHA would like your input on OSHA Wants Input on Shipyard Fall Protection Rules.  Please don’t think your opinion doesn’t matter because it does!  Especially you people who work in the shipyards day in and day out.  You see it all and know more than any of your bosses, so this is your chance to speak up.

This Labor Day – Make Safety a Priority in Your Workplace – Good article and great thought but I say, Make Safety a priority EVERYDAY, not just labor day and the life you save may be your own.

Safety is not complicated but it does have many parts to it.  Training is critical to ensure people know what to do and how to handle emergency situations.  Surprise drills and inspections are a tool to see how effective your training is and the quality of your hiring practices.  Life doesn’t have to be boring and mundane, make it interesting and keep people focused and on their toes.  Until next month, stay safe.

 

Coming soon – another recipe for disaster.

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Companies Behaving Badly – Listen

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(Dr. Ralph Nichols was the “Father of the Field of Listening” and a founding father of the International Listening Association.  You can find out more here.)

Welcome back to another episode, thank you for stopping by.

It’s not a question of “can you hear me?” but more to the point, “are you listening to me?” Not listening to your workers can cost the company in so many ways as you will see in some of the stories below.  When you don’t listen to employees you’re just turning them off.  They become less engaged, you lose their trust and they feel you don’t care about them or working condition as profits is the only concern.  Soon the quality of work drops as more mistakes occur and workers don’t even bother bringing issues to your attention any more.  It begins to totally spiral out of control as the production line is constantly down, quotas are being missed, customer’s orders are not being filled, there is no communication at all except for the finger pointing and actually in the scheme of things no one actually gives a rats ass about anything but just collecting their pay check.  You have successfully built a wall that will take a long time to come down just because you couldn’t take a moment to hear what they have to say.  Your life becomes a scheduling hell as you try to keep production from coming to a standstill as the number of employees calling in sick dramatically increases daily and employee turnover begins to escalate as well.

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Oh I know, I’ve heard all the excuses before; you don’t have the time, you have production reports to complete, you have too many emails to answer, you have meetings to attend. That’s all bull dink folks because they’re nothing BUT excuses.  You just have to do a better job of managing your time, (it can be done, you have to want to) so you can be on the shop floor and listen.  Vilfredo Pareto was so kind to help by coming up with the Pareto Principle of 80/20.  For you that means you spend 20% of your time dealing with desk duties and 80% on the floor.  Then you can plant the seeds to encourage your workers to speak so you can listen.  

Just cause you finish a meeting or training session with the obligatory “are their any questions” you’re not done just yet.  There are those who are not comfortable asking questions in a room full of people.  Make it clear you’re always available to answer questions that they may think of later and there are NO stupid questions.  When they come to you and they will, don’t shut them down and instead thank them for their question and offer a comfortable place to talk where there’ll be no distractions and this doesn’t always have to be your desk or office.  I had a boss who used to love to go outside the building to chat, mainly because he also was able to have a smoke.  I don’t smoke but I love the idea of going for a walk on a beautiful day around the facility.  If you really don’t have time to listen that minute, suggest a time that works for both of you and keep the appointment.  When you listen don’t look like you have to be elsewhere and constantly check your watch but give encouragement.  (Additional reading People are assets.)

After you listen to their safety concern, maintenance improvement idea or money saving production suggestion, make a commitment to get back to the employee with a date they can expect an update.  I would keep a spread sheet posted for all the employees to see, with the safety/maintenance issue(s) reported, the work order number assigned to correct the problem and the estimated completion date.  The employees loved seeing an idea or issue they had reported was actually coming to life.  Once you’ve demonstrated you can listen to your workers you’ll create a constant open dialogue with uninhibited exchange of ideas and improvements that’ll make everyones life safer and easier in the long run.

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As far as companies not listening to their employees, OSHA Fines Employer $105,000 for Retaliating Against Employee Who Complained About Mold ExposureWhen office manager Debra Walters brought to managements attention a mold issue not only didn’t they listen to her but also did nothing.  Knowing full well that mold can cause severe health problems in people as well as herself she did what she had to do and filed an anonymous complaint with OSHA.  Experts that came in to access the mold situation found significant active toxigenic mold growth.  As a reward for showing her concern for other workers health, her employer fired Debra.  Now, thanks to OSHA she will get full back pay and health benefits and it’s costing the company $105,000 to learn a valuable lesson that would have been prevented had they listened to Debra.  There is really no good reason to expose your employees to hazards.

Speaking of not listening, it appears that the United States Postal Service is stone deaf as well as blind when it comes to the safety of it’s workers.  USPS Faces $111K in Fines After OSHA Inspection Again Finds Workplace Safety Hazards .  That’s right, the incompetent weak leadership has AGAIN allowed another post office to deliberately place workers in harms way.  So much so that when management didn’t listen to the employees they filed a complaint with OSHA.  The resulting inspection found record keeping and housekeeping violations, exit signs not posted, electrical equipment improperly used, locked and blocked exits and fall hazards resulting in 5 REPEAT violations along with a proposed fine of $111,540.  I again call out the union and ask why are you not protecting your paying dues members and allowing their lives to be put on the line?  How can you expect people to do a competent job when they have to constantly deal with safety hazards?

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Two companies that decided not to listen and the results are what you’d expect.  OSHA: East End Bridge companies knew wind gauge was broken months before crane collapse. Both companies knew that a critical aspect of crane safety is wind speed and they both knew that the anemometer was damaged and didn’t work since December 15th 2015.  So instead of replacing it they asked the crane operator to confer with other operators on nearby cranes.  Was a great idea as a short term solution only.  Two months later, on the morning of the collapse, the crane operator sent a text message to that other crane but the worker wasn’t there, leaving the crane operator without vital information and that’s when murphy’s law took over.  A gust of wind knocked the crane over and luckily the 4 workers on the barge escaped without injury.  When your workers see you don’t listen, they’re just not going to care either.

Not only do some companies not listen to their workers, they also don’t listen to OSHA. Pennsylvania feed mill faces OSHA fine for repeat offenses So OSHA had once before inspected the facility and told them they had to fix several issues.  Rather then listen to what OSHA was telling them they ignored it and now it’s going to cost them $195,000 for a collection of Willful, serious and repeat violations.  Nothing sends a louder message of total disregard for your workers health and safety then ignoring OSHA’s advice when they’re trying to help you and they get angry when you don’t listen.  With the new higher fine amounts and the increase in prosecuting of severe violators it’s ludicrous to ignore your workers and OSHA.

Well that’s embarrassing. OSHA cites fire extinguisher company after two workers severely injured Can you imagine that a safety company, in this case a fire & safety equipment company didn’t bother to TRAIN their employees on how to properly fill a compressed gas cylinder.  Two workers were injured when one exploded during the filling process.  Listen to this, training is a critical part of safety.  Workers need to know how to operate machinery safely, that includes how the machine works, how to turn it on/off and what PPE is needed while operating and what to do when there are problems especially if you don’t want to spend time at the emergency room.  This lesson came with a cost of a recommended fine of $19,774.

 

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We’ll end this issue with this story.  Men.  The number 3 overall killer of men is accidents. That’s correct, right behind heart disease and cancer and before stroke.  It’s probably also why women live longer than men as well.  Wouldn’t you say Kyle at Toyota? (Kyle has been doing a video series on forklift safety titled “Why women live longer than men”. Highly suggest you follow him at website or on twitter @ToyotaEqupment )  Men also seem to have this need to torture newbies/rookies in the forms of initiations, pranks and horseplay. In this case Workplace ‘prank’ proves painful and costly it cost a worker a fine of $6000 and $517.50 in costs because he thought it would be funny to spray brake cleaning chemical all over a fellow worker who suffered burns when it ignited.  What a friend, what a funny joke, what an idiot.  Today, production facilities and warehouses are places of business and the days of horseplay are over, done, put a fork in it.  There is only room for professional employees and yes, driving a forklift is a professional job in my eyes.  With all the competition out there, the costs of manufacturing, storing, shipping, advertising, marketing, facilities and workers comp the company can’t afford to have you joy ride on a forklift or light someone on fire so you can relieve some stress by having a chuckle.  You CAN have fun at work and still be professional and that’ll be the topic of a future blog.  Horseplay in the workplace is a pet peeve of mine.  I had a friend who lost part of his foot screwing around with forklifts in a warehouse.  I worked in the office as a production scheduler and was offered the warehouse supervisor position that this event had created in opening as the previous supervisor was terminated.  My friend suffered  a lot of pain and a lot of frustration trying to get back to normal which lead to depression.  It was a long tough road but we got there and I can’t let anyone go through that.  As the new sup I was tested, but I stood firm.

That’s what workplace safety is about.  You are fair and you stand firm.  Explain the rules, what the consequences are for non-compliance and enforce it fairly and equally.  Don’t worry about what the other shifts or departments do, this is your staff, your territory. Protect it and the people in it!  Until the 15th. Stay safe and PLEASE DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE THIS HOLIDAY WEEKEND.

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