NEVER KEEP QUIET ABOUT SAFETY my friends, for the life you save may be your own.Until next month, be kind to each other and be safe.
Hello Baseball and the NBA playoffs. Great time of year.
NEVER KEEP QUIET ABOUT SAFETY my friends, for the life you save may be your own.Until next month, be kind to each other and be safe.
Hello Baseball and the NBA playoffs. Great time of year.
And I’m not even talking about hacking of a computer, this is all human error. Hopefully this article will spur most of you to double check where you’re sending personal information about an injured employee. Get into the habit of reviewing and updating your phone and fax numbers for medical clinics and the state workers compensation board on a regular basis.
I’m still not sure why or what changed but the fax landline number that I’ve had for 32 years has been receiving for the last seven years full sets of information on employees who have been injured on the job. The last one was this week and now I have Mr Smith’s dob, home address, work address, SSN, his injury and other personal information that if I was dishonest, would also be hurting Mr. Smith financially as well as from his accident if I assumed his identity. I called the medical office to let them know the information didn’t get to where it was suppose to go but to my home instead. The clerk was perplexed and asked me again the patient’s name and birthdate. Still not getting it he told me he needed to check with his office manager. After being on hold for five minutes I hung up. Hopefully there were able to figure it out with the info I gave them.
To make it worse, The state of California doesn’t seen to care either. When this happened last August I tried to inform workers comp I was getting personal information. She thanked me and was ready to hang up when I said, don’t you want to know who sent it and what it was about nor did she ask if I still had the information or destroyed it?
So folks, you’re going to have to take it upon yourselves to make sure this doesn’t happen to you. FYI, when I do get this info and after reporting it to the sender, I take the time and shred it at no charge to anyone. You’re welcome.
Hope you appreciate my top 5. Now lets finish the year looking at other disturbing trends from 2016 that’ll continue into 2017.
The continued lack of leadership that prevails at the US Postal Service. Blood incidents prompt OSHA to fine Brooklyn Postal Service location $342,000 – How stupid is the leadership? Pretty damn stupid and the workers know it since they filed a complaint with OSHA that found 2 WILLFUL and 3 REPEAT violations. 3 Repeat!!! Which means they never bothered to fix the problem of not having written instructions or training for workers responsible for handling and cleaning up biohazard packages that are stained or leaking. Managers also did not offer hepatitis B vaccines to affected employees. It’s a wonder that your junk mail even gets to you! I predict you’ll be reading more stories of violations at the USPS next year since management has proven it’s incapable of finding it’s own way out of a paper bag.
Continued lapses of safety on our railroads and ignoring the fixes needed for infrastructure to ensure protection of civilian lives. N.J. Transit Safety Jobs Vacant as Christie Allies Hired at Top – Some politicians, actually only the clueless ones bent on personal power think the way to fix a problem is to hire their friends to top management positions or by making new and “better” laws when all that is needed is to fill the open positions with employees who do the job at hand and not brown nose their way through. While accidents continue on one of the worst transit systems in the world the Governor thinks it’s better not to fill the safety positions since they’ll ask for money to fix it while his buddies will keep the status quo and let constituents continue to die. I guess the transit system isn’t as easy to take care of as the George Washington bridge. Look for continued lack of a plan and leadership into the next year and beyond.
Continue to poison ourselves, our water supply and the environment because we are too cavalier on chemical safety. New Martinsville chemical plant cited for workplace-safety violations – We need chemicals for food production, building materials, cars, planes, homes and just about anything you can think of but why are we so sloppy and careless about handling it? Could it be that it maybe takes 20 years for the exposure to show up as a health problem? Could it be that we truly believe the planet can handle all those chemicals in the air, land, streams, rivers and oceans to dilute and render them to harmless? Could it be that chemical companies find it a needless expense to make all the needed safety measures and training to prevent chemical injury and death? Either way, YOU as a employer, whether a supermarket or chemical plant are responsible to train your workers on what they are working with, it’s potential hazards, the proper PPE needed and how to handle in a spill or other emergency. However I predict this also will continue to be ignored since we never learned anything after the 1984 Bhopal, India gas leak that killed 4,000 humans immediately and residual effects claiming a total of 15,000 human lives!!! If you think it can’t happen here, you’re just in denial or brain dead.
Continued deaths of civilians due to budget cuts and lack of leadership at all major and small cities. Operator accused of ignoring safety in deadly Oakland warehouse fire and Fire Chief: We were not aware what was going on in Ghost Ship – What happened in Oakland, California at the Ghost Ship Warehouse is just the canary in the mine warning f0r all cities. Due to the competition by city departments for that little slice of the budget pie, things are not getting done and the leadership instead of thinking outside the box and developing solutions to working with what they have are just crying about it and doing NOTHING! Between all the departments within the city, Ghost ship slipped through the cracks and now people are dead. The mayor of Oakland at one point stated we need better laws but this is just rhetoric since all you had to do was enforce the current laws and better leadership developing communication between the departments instead of every man or woman for themselves. If you think this can’t happen in your town, then think again. When you city is more hell bent on saving the baseball team or football team from leaving, the safety of it’s citizens is a moot point. Time to wake up Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and Vallejo. Sure there’s a knee jerk reaction happening now and everyone is aware but over time this will fade, things won’t get done and we’ll all be horrified again when it happens again.
That does it for now. I greatly appreciate your support over the year and wish you all a Happy Hanukkah and a very Merry Christmas. After the interesting year we’ve had it’s nice to see the show of solidarity by Hanukkah and Christmas as they begin back to back. As you visit family and friends remember to please not drink and drive or drive distracted. Be your own fire marshall and safety inspector to protect your home and family from fire, accidents or visits to the ER. If you’re into making resolutions for the new year, resolve to be a better person to you fellow human beings, treat them with respect, be polite and especially be kind to those less fortunate then you. There is a lot of love out there and we can obliterate the hate with it. Until next year, never keep quiet about safety for the life you save may be your own.
The above Dilbert comic is what I like to call a knee jerk reaction to a workplace safety issue. It always immediately occurs after a serious accident that results in an injury or death. It’s spawned from a combination of good intentions and guilt mixed with the panic of lawsuits and possible trigger for an OSHA inspection. However the problem can be exacerbated by the sudden manic rush of safety information flooding the workers and issuing hastily and poorly written new policies and procedures that may actually be contradicting normal day to day operations. Then add poorly planned training that is rushed through on each shift but not thorough enough and now there are even more questions on the floor that will wind up causing confusion amongst the staff, slows down production and costs you money. You unintentionally keep spiraling as you’re continually adjusting and re-training to correct the previous bad information and now the workers have no confidence in management. The good news is this reaction can be so easily avoided by simply having policies and procedures in place that are enforced on a consistent basis along with continued training and education.
However, even with the best written procedures and training, complacency can still creep in and be one of the worst enemies of safety. It’s a natural human behavior and who knows what triggers it? The repetition of tasks on a daily basis leading to boredom? Workers begin to cut corners as a thrill to break that boredom, supervisors let the little things slide, then before you know it, people are scurrying to create alibis and cover their asses.
At one place I worked, we had several man-lifts throughout the plant. They can be very dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. When I was hired, part of my orientation was being taken to a man-lift and after a brief demonstration and explanation was told to go up one flight by my myself, get off and then come back down. I completed the task and was passed. Over time though, sloppiness reared its head and the lift training became hit and miss. To make it worse, we had outside contractors working on construction projects in our plant and they were not trained or tested on the man-lifts, let alone any other procedures such as the fact that they couldn’t bring their tools or equipment up the lift and instead had to use an elevator. As luck would have it, one contractor wound up falling off the man-lift and sustained severe injuries. The next day we were all told to retrain our shifts on how to use the man-lift and have them sign off they were trained. Knee jerk reaction that could have been prevented if the policies and procedures that were all ready in place had been enforced on a consistent basis.
When ever there is a catastrophe at work before you run off screaming we need more laws, we need more rules to prevent this from ever happening again, stop, take a breath and first look at where the current rules failed. Was it the rule is not clear enough, efficient enough, relevant enough or just not followed enough? Also listen to your staff. Make sure they are allowed to participate in safety committees and discussions and never ignore a concern they express on safety. Just because it’s a pebble to you doesn’t mean it isn’t a boulder to them. Get back to them even if it’s just to say I’m looking into it or maintenance is working on a solution and should be completed by. You can also encourage engagement from the staff by having a quick, 5 minute huddle before the shift begins and give reminders on safety like it’s a very hot day, so please make sure to drink a glass of water every hour and watch each other for the warning signs of heat stroke.
You are in control of what happens in your part of the plant. Keep control by keeping the conversation going on safety and you too can avoid a knee jerk reaction to workplace safety.
Need help with putting together policies and procedures that’ll keep you compliant? Not sure how to begin or conduct a monthly safety meeting? Tailgate/Toolbox meeting? That’s why we’re here. Contact us. We’re warehouseflow advisors.
You do everything you can to protect your employees at the workplace. You take all the necessary steps by beginning with a hazard analysis to identify potential dangers and eliminate them, you buy the best and latest styles in PPE so employees will wear them, you make housekeeping a priority and keep a neat and organized facility that looks professional and reduces trips and falls. You have training classes and drills for any emergency whether medical, natural or man-made that you may encounter, keeping everyone prepared so they know what to do to survive. You have weekly tailgate/toolbox meetings and a monthly safety meeting on a consistent basis. With all this effort and energy put into keeping your employees safe as you all try to walk down the “Green Brick Road of Safety”, is there really anything else that can be done to enhance their safety? Yes, there is one more thing you can add that will help immensely and it’s staring right at you in the mirror. It’s called Coaching/Leadership. I will be using the term coach/coaching for convenience but you can just as well use leader/leadership. After working for a company where shift managers were called coaches and workers were called players along with my love of sports, I happen to like the term “coach” much better.
The Golden State Warriors won the NBA Championship with basically the same personnel on the floor they had when they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs a year earlier. They had assembled the talent and components needed to win and lord knows they had the fan base. The only significant change to the team from last season was the coach and his staff. You know the results, Steve Kerr (pictured above) earned his first NBA Championship and I’m here to say to you, you can have the greatest player in the world on your team, but without great coaching/leadership your team won’t achieve the goal.
That’s why coaching goes well beyond training. When training an employee you are teaching them a specific skill set, a routine or procedure like how to drive a forklift, how to properly lift a box, or how to handle a liquid spill. However when coaching you’re building people into great employees by communicating positive feedback on performance improving their self-esteem, building confidence and increasing their knowledge so they are successful at accomplishing their assigned tasks and goals. I believe the seasoned operator knows his machine better than anyone else, in fact some really good ones know just by the sound how well it’s running. Some companies allow only maintenance personnel to make adjustments or change overs on machinery. I find this can waste time as maintenance personnel can often be tied up on several planned projects while trying to put out many fires. We were allowed to experiment on our shift since I wouldn’t shut-up about it and by allowing the machine operators to make those adjustments and change overs to their machines we experienced an increase in our production numbers and a drastic reduction in down time. The workers were given an opportunity to have a voice and feel good about being part of the solution and that happens when the coach listens.
Coaching corrects behavior or performance issues without the threat of punishment which should only be used as a last resort. A coach sets the standard of ethics and morals that everyone in the facility will be following when it comes to safety, performance, professionalism and how to treat and respond to each other. A coach sets the level of tolerance for infractions and consequences geared to help the employee improve not just fail again. A coach does not allow employees to engage in horseplay or distracting behavior of any kind while working but gives time to talk and provides a means to blow off steam and reward their efforts. A coach is an advocate for their employees and shows them, “Yes, they can do it” when helping them learn a new skill and improving their ability to earn more income and a coach makes sure they themselves always sets an example for all.
As in any sport or job a coach makes sure you’re prepared for the upcoming match and ready to execute the game plan with the man power, equipment and supplies required. A coach begins each work day with a morning huddle to keep you informed, focused and motivated so you’re confident to; elevate your level of performance. A good coach knows that they need to counsel employees in private, praise them in public, brag about them to the upper brass and to engage staff, listen to their feedback which can result in growth and continuous improvement for them as well as yourself. Above all a great coach knows to always say thank you for a job well done.
A coach creates and sustains a culture and atmosphere that is conducive for learning and where employees can feel free to ask questions and freely engage in the exchange of ideas on workplace safety, improved equipment maintenance or in obtaining better production results without fear of ridicule. I’ve seen the other side of the coin in one plant I worked. The department manager couldn’t figure out why we were having certain production issues and never bothered to engage the staff or listen as he would shoot down every idea as “stupid” or “that’ll never work” and then dismissed everyone by putting them down like they were idiots. He never could see the answers because he closed off communication and began to blame others for the problems. It was killing moral, production was dropping, sick calls increased and it made for a bad situation which led to bickering between him and other department managers that were also affected right on the production floor for everyone to watch.
A coach delivers timely tailgate/toolbox meetings, interesting monthly safety meetings that involves the staff in presentations. The coach should almost always direct his team from the playing field itself and not issue commands entrenched in an office behind their desk. A coach knows they need to be on the floor so they can encourage, critique, answer questions as well as observe and document the good along with the bad to develop and offer obtainable goals and objectives to help you grow and retain these employees you’ve developed but even then there is no guarantee they’ll stay as great head coaches from successful NFL teams tend to spawn future head coaches for other NFL teams. That in itself can be very satisfying.
Whether you are a manufacturer of red ruby slippers or a flying monkey pet food distributor while you lead your company down the “Green Brick Road of Safety” and the Scarecrow forgets to wear his PPE, or the Tin Man has a hazardous liquid spill or the Lion frets about training on a new piece of equipment and the accident prone Wicked Witch creates havoc on the shop floor, don’t bother looking for the man behind the screen as you can always spot the coach on the floor. They’re the one looking cool, collected, assessing the situation, reassuring and encouraging everyone and keeps things going without so much as skipping a beat. So you see the COACH is the glue.
When employees do stupid things (an immature unsafe act) at the workplace whether an injury occurs or not, who is at fault? Is the boss to blame? Who is responsible for upholding the culture of safety at the workplace? All good questions and Blue Rhino is taking the position that the explosion at their Tavares facility last summer was all the result of bad employees not following the rules. Their defense against the 27 violations OSHA found during the investigation, which were linked to the explosion were due to “unpreventable/ unforeseeable employee misconduct” and the result of “isolated and unauthorized actions by certain employees and/or supervisors.” So then it is the employees fault?
But doesn’t management create the culture of safety through the quality and frequency of training, response to safety issues along with the written “rules of the road” including the thresholds required for progressive discipline, reprimands and terminations. When a manager sees an employee working without the mandatory PPE that’s required, isn’t the manager at fault if they ignore it? So then the answer must be, it is managements fault!
There was a forklift driver in the shipping department on graveyard shift who wore headphones and listened to loud rock music while driving across the dock, back and forth loading trailers. The new supervisor approached him and asked him to remove the headphones where upon he was informed that he was the first supervisor to ask him to do this. Apparently no one thought it was an important issue to stop and speak to him. The supervisor insisted and was then told the employee might not be able to work as fast without the music. The supervisor patiently explained his concern about him not hearing and backing over an employee and the worker’s quick retort to that was, “then they’ll just have to watch out for me, won’t they.”
That was a big red flag about the safety culture here, and it was troubling. The icing on the cake was to come later that night when the foreperson informed the new supervisor how wrong he was to do this to the best and fastest worker they had on the shift. The flabbergasted supervisor told her he couldn’t live with the guilt if he hadn’t said something and an employee was later hurt. “Management doesn’t care about safety around here or care about us” she told him, “After a few weeks you’ll give up and be just like all the others supervisors.”
He stuck to his guns on the issue at hand but wondered where was the disconnect? Everyone wants you to be a nice guy, just look the other way this time boss but you have to know damn well that if an employee gets injured on the job and it goes to a trial the attorneys are going to burn the supervisor for not saying anything to that employee let alone live with the guilt for not having said anything. Now for our new supervisor, on to find the problem and the first step was to attend the monthly safety meeting.
It is a company mandatory monthly meeting. There were handouts galore with images and pictures of various types of PPE and company rules as the foreperson read from a prepared script to deaf ears. The employees were reading newspapers, playing dominos, doodling on their handout sheets creating very inventive new PPE. No one heard the message of safety, no one did care on this level but the company could proudly display, hey, we have monthly safety meetings. If anything happens, it’s the employees fault.
Alas he was intrigued by this challenge and had to look further into this so he made time and spoke to each employee on his shift as he shadowed them learning about their individual jobs. It is a perfect opportunity to learn about your team and what the issues are for them and he learned that safety issues were brought up to management but nothing was done to correct the issues. There was no two way communication going on at all. Concerns went up the pipe and vanished never to be heard from again. A horrible message to send and it explained their attitudes and why people didn’t take the safety meetings seriously. This was a talking safety but do nothing culture one of the worst kinds. It’s the type of culture that will generate a call to OHSA from that anonymous complaint.
He needed a way to show the workers he was serious about his commitment to safety besides just reminding them about wearing their PPE. This was compounded when he found that safety was not enforced equally between the shifts as his team now wanted to know “why don’t the other shifts have to follow the rules like we do?” He told them the company rules are safety glasses, ear plugs and hard hat. There’s a reason for that rule, to protect you and I want you to go home the same way you arrived at work today, in one piece. He knew he had reached them on some level as they starred back in shock that someone cared.
Our new supervisor lead the next safety meeting. He went over the handouts with the staff for that month’s company safety topic and then… he pulled out a white board and marker and turned to the group and looked at them and asked, “O.K. Let’s make a list of safety concerns you have.” WHAT? They sat in stunned silence and then it began, a very slow trickle of issues and then they got into it, bouncing issues off each other and the list began to grew as well as their excitement. “So now what?” Well, which do you think are the top ten? [Yes folks there were that many issues.] We hammered out a list of 10 as a team as you could see they began to become comfortable with the concept of engagement.
The new supervisor had, through detective work, discussions, hit and miss and a lot of “can I buy you a coffee?” with other management staff was finally able to get into the company maintenance work order program. The longest aspect of assembling the materials needed to do this was obtaining a sign on and password. There were many hoops to jump and tricks to perform but the squeaky wheel does get oiled, after a few times anyway. Now to put things into play.
As a individual work order was generated for each item on the top ten list he had marked them as “Priority – Safety Hazard”. Each work order had a identifying number, was in the system and visible to all. He then created a spread sheet with columns, work order numbers, the repair issue and estimated completion date which was then prominently displayed so all the employees could see that their issues were valid and were to be addressed. Maintenance department was not pleased with the new supervisor since he had invaded their complacency and that created fear as they hadn’t been accountable for years.
The concern for the safety of people paid off as an excellent team was formed and they almost daily met their daily goals and regularly out-performed the other shifts and they continued to have lively engaging safety meetings. Someone demonstrated that they actually cared and listened to them and they responded.
So I think we may have an answer to the question, who’s fault is it when an employee does something stupid? Well I would have to say, It’s everyone’s fault. Somewhere the culture of the company has let the employees and itself down due to a disconnect which shouldn’t be a surprise when the culture is to talk about safety but doesn’t follow through when safety issues and concerns are brought to management’s attention. You don’t want to lose the employee’s trust.
You can change that! I’m not going to lie, it’s not going to be easy and it doesn’t help when other superintendents, managers and department heads walk by an employee not wearing their PPE and don’t challenge it let alone wear the required PPE themselves. You will be labeled a trouble maker, not a team player but remember YOU have control over your part of the company whether a warehouse, production line or office. As part of management you set the standards for the operation. Have safety tailgate meetings and allow employees to do the demonstration in front of their peers. Next time you have to take down a piece of equipment for repair turn it into a safety learning lesson including LOTO. Be an example to all your staff and always wear your PPE. Get involved with or create a safety committee. Speak to the other shift supervisors, they may have the same experiences you’re having and soon another shift is following the rules and another and soon the whole plant. It’s a culture change you can begin
The bottom line is, when it comes to workplace safety you want to do the right thing all of the time. You can’t be Mr. nice guy one minute and then clamp down the next, you’ll loose credibility. Be respectful, be consistent, be firm, be fair. You have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and if you believe that the grief you’ll get from an employee because you tell them to put on their safety glasses is some how worse than dealing with the life time of guilt because they’re blinded for life, then you may be in the wrong line of work.
When the opportunity presented itself for us to visit a foreign land, we immediately said yes! Taking a trip overseas is so cool since first, it gives you the chance to bore and torture family members and friends with daily posts and pictures on facebook of your travels accompanied with cute anecdotes on interactions with the locals! Second and also the best reason, it’s a fantastic opportunity to meet new people in a different setting, who have a different culture and use a different language. When our trip to Spain finally came to an end, what struck me the most was that there is really no difference between us. Except for language, they are people just like us, with the same hopes, dreams, and desires. They are cab drivers hustling for fares, wait staff hovering and taking orders, teachers leading classes, bankers and students all using buses, cars and mopeds to and from work. As an Italian tour guide one told me several years ago on my expectations in Rome, which also applies in Spain and France, “It’s not better, it’s not worse, it’s just different.”
After several days of eating my way through Spanish tapas joints and watching the teams of chefs operate, the epiphany hit and no it wasn’t the baby eel. The key to achieving success is the same here as the U.S. and in the world –teamwork. I noticed the differences between a truly GREAT Tapas bar and a so-so tapas bar had a lot to do with the level of teamwork, execution and communication within the group. It wasn’t just the great quality and amazing flavors of the food that made the experience, it was the entire process, full of energy and precision that was awesome to watch, especially for a productivity geek like me! The skill of people flowing along effortlessly: menus, translations, taking orders, food preparation, food distributed, drinks, constant clearing and replacement of dirty plates and new utensils distributed, final check in, clean up and then reset the area for the next customers and all along the constant communication between all the associates as they executed each task flawlessly. Again, and again, over and over, repeating the process happily, energetically and always engaging without skipping a beat. Those were also the places that had long lines of people eagerly waiting their seat like at Tapas 24. Those places with short waits didn’t have the same energy and coordination. It shows you the importance of that very precious commodity you have, your staff.
In this day and age of computerization, digital scanning, smart phones, robotics and other electronic assistants we have developed a false sense that these systems are actually keeping us in touch with the pulse of the company in real time. In actuality, it’s the people performing the tasks, your companies biggest asset who are the pulse of the company. They execute the process, take the orders, produce the product and complete the servicing. So peel off that layer of tronics and ditch your electronic umbilical cord and make the time to walk the floor. Visit the workers and engage in face to face verbal exchange with these people. Visit when they’re on the production line, visit when they’re receiving on the dock, visit when they’re cleaning and then listen, listen, listen to their ideas, their perceived roadblocks and suggestions for improvement. They are the team and when you give them the proper tools, proper training, realistic expectations and also ensure they are protected with proper PPE and safety policies you can create a business people would be willing to wait on a long line to experience.