Companies Behaving Badly-Integrity

Integrity: firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : incorruptibility


Welcome back.

When I attended kindergarten, many many years ago, we were taught the golden rule and to respect others and if you disagreed with an editorial or had an issue with customer service you had to sit down, write or type a letter that usually contained way more than 140 characters, stuff it in and address an envelope, place a stamp on it and then drop it off in a mail box or at the Post office.  Reactions to issues or comments were not instantaneous.  However, long before you’d get to the letter writing stage we used to do another thing that has been long lost and forgotten, we had a discussion.  Yep, good old fashion face to face, sit down or stand up conversation as we would confront the issue by discussing it with real facts to make our point.  The win wasn’t as important as was making your point with truthful and reliable information.  Since  we respected each other whether we agreed or not we could always come to some type of conclusion, either forming a consensus by taking the good points from both sides to solve the issue or we’ll discuss this again later but for now we agree to disagree and yet still be friends.  No yelling, no screaming, no hatred.  Back then, even two old men sitting on a park bench, with one a Bronx Yankee fan discussing with the other, a Brooklyn Dodger fan who had the better players without fists being thrown. 


Somewhere along the line, as we embraced new technologies into our daily lives to help us work easier, get entertainment faster and communicate better, the art of discussion along with respect for others opinions and integrity in general, got lost.  We’re even going full circle on how we communicate.  Over 2000 years ago Egyptian hieroglyphics was the rage but we moved to the spoken and written word and now emojis speak to our thoughts and emotions.  I’ve read all kinds of articles and theories on why this has changed and some make more sense then others but as I see it, there are many reasons. However the one I believe has the biggest impact is the loss of the golden rule.  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you somehow became Do unto others before they do it to you.  Companies that once took pride in their workforce were now more concerned more with profit then the human condition.  If someone lost a limb or their life getting that one extra widget made, well that’s just the cost of doing business.  A driver has a terrible wreck on the freeway because of all the hours he had to put in to get a load delivered, oh well, the cost of doing business.  With the push for profits, the focus for profits and living for profits shut down communication from the shop floor to Corporate headquarters, because corporate didn’t want to hear any excuses as to why quotas weren’t being made and profits were down.  Like a old Chicago gangland boss asking why this weeks take is so light.  We’re not skimming of the top boss, honest, it was all the bribes, protection and transportation costs that cut into the profits.  Down time, injuries, training, maintenance, all just excuses as to why we didn’t make enough profit.  There was no respect for the workers or their input and that created workers not respecting management.


So what happens as no one respects your thoughts, listens or allows you to discuss safety conditions or better procedures to improve production.  Some just tune out and become work zombies.  They go through the motions each day with the same couldn’t care less attitude, just putting in my time to get a check.  Problem is zombies are still humans and when you check out the chances are greater you’ll get injured on the job.  Not good.  Some speak up and continue to try and engage management in conversation but those folks become branded as trouble makers, rebels and renegades.  They don’t appreciate that they have a job as we let them work here out of the goodness of our hearts.  The third group is the scariest.  They are the ones who become suddenly become quiet, making mental notes over time as they work of who’s against them like Madam Defarge knitting a list for the guillotine.   As the anger of not being listened too or taken seriously slowly builds, (no one gets back to you on the obvious safety issue), the pressure mounts over days, (that’s a really stupid idea), weeks, months, (I told you before, when I hear something about safety I’ll tell you. Now enough already) it builds until one day, a little innocent event (why is my paycheck wrong?) triggers the eruption of emotion and the outcome is almost always not good for anyone.

The kind of person, supervisor, parent you become is up to you.  You can only concentrate on profits and meeting your goals for that fat bonus and not care about the employees working conditions or make their goals.  You can have workers make up accounts, make up business, make up anything to justify the means to the end.  At one company we had a salesperson who always placed a large order for a customer the last day of the month. Each time the order came back, refused by the customer saying they didn’t order it.  The salesperson got his commission, as it was never taken away and the warehouse paid workers for the time it took to break it down and put it all back into inventory.  The fact the company let this go on told me a lot about the integrity of the company, there wasn’t any when it came to getting market share.  Like the boss had told us all before, he wanted to be the biggest pig at the trough and not share the market with anyone and I guess if that meant lying about orders, then heck yea!  They didn’t listen to me or care about what it cost the warehouse.  They didn’t listen to or care customer service who complained to the sales manager for the wasted time and angry customer.  No one cared about the little game until a new GM came to town.  Once the commission wasn’t paid any longer for this, the practice by this salesperson stopped and the sales manager was told, there’s the door if you don’t like it.  Honor and integrity restored and showed me how easy change can be, when the right people make honorable decisions.  

You can be the kind of person, supervisor, parent who concentrates on the whole big picture!  Listening to workers, getting back to them when you say you will and using their ideas to improve safety, productivity and equipment maintenance while treating everyone with respect.  By doing this you have planted a seed of communication that will bloom into open and honest conversation and you can even use an emoji or two to help get the point across. 

Hiring seasonal workers? Here’s what you need to know You probably are all ready in the middle of getting your seasonal workers on line.  Just remember since they are temporary workers don’t treat them as disposable items.  Make sure they get the training they need and most of all, this could be someone your company may want as a regular worker down the road.  Don’t scare them off or kill them off.

You may think that not clearly marking paths for pedestrians in your facility to keep them safe from forklifts and other moving equipment is a waste of time and money, think again.  Glass bottle makers Encirc fined £500,000 after plant worker hit by forklift Your employees are the biggest asset you have, protect it, and make your facility safe for everyone to operate in.

Dust can explode.  Yes, dust from any commercial business when produced in enough volume and the right spark can blow up a building.  OSHA: Cambria corn mill cited in 2011 for explosion hazards Make sure you have the proper ventilation and dust collection system to avoid these problems.  Anything that produces dust as a by product is a potential hazard even grains and sugar dust can be explosive.  


Falls continues to be the number 1 violation and killer of people.  If falls were a disease, alien predator or serial killer we all would probably be more concerned.  So help us all and look at it as a disease, alien predator and serial killer since it is all of the above.  YOU can help stop the falls and you can do it with one simple word.  NO.  If you’re working over 6 feet from the ground and no fall protection is available so you can safely do the job, just say NO.

Until next month, never keep quiet about safety for the life you save may be your own.



Companies Behaving Badly-Justified

Welcome back.
We’re continuing on the theme from last month of “boys will be boys”, and yet trying not to beat a dead horse.  When it comes to the thought process of “boys being boys” there happens to be one major fatal flaw and that is the ability to justify all of their actions.  It takes a strong willed, determined, stubborn man to be able to ignore all his instincts and training just too save a few minutes in his life like it’s some kind of symbolic victory even though it can just as well be the last few minutes of his life.  The Stream of Conscienceness – By the time I get to the power box to LOTO the packaging machine and then back to clear the jam and back to the power box, OMG, that could take 15 – 25 minutes!  Or another scenario, by the time I have properly anchored the lanyard to my harness so I won’t fall it’ll take 15 – 20 minutes out of my day! 
The JUSTIFICATION – It’s not a bad jam, I bet I can clear it in between the bag fills, no problem or I can just quickly walk out and grab that sheet of plywood in seconds and be done.    TRAINING – becomes irrelevant, COMMON SENSE – Over-road by the adrenalin boost from the thrill of saving 15 minutes.  But, but your training!, the little voice insists. The good news is that 80% of you will avoid this process and go with your instincts and training and do a proper L.O.T.O. or properly anchor your safety lines and wear your harness.  The rest of you will put your fellow workers in the position of scrambling to find YOUR fingers so they can place them on ice for the ride to the E.R. or watch you get zipped into a body bag.  Aren’t your fellow workers lucky to be exposed to that trauma thanks to you and why accidents continue to be the number 3 killer of men or boys being boys?  (80/20 rule – This is according to the Pareto Principle by Vilfredo Pareto a man of many talents who discovered the 80/20 rule.  His birthday is coming, July 15) 
As if that wasn’t enough, you also have to be aware of the deadly combination of the ability of “justification” with “the boss isn’t here”, which is a toxic and lethal mixture.  It appears that the excitement that young people get from hearing their parents will be leaving them home on their own for an extended period of time just never stops for some.  You remember how when mom and dad were gone for the evening or weekend, the house became your laboratory as you tried out all those awesome adult things but for some reason, our boys being boys have been able to transfer that experience to their boss not being around.  The combination gives a very intoxicating feeling which is nothing more then an open invitation to doing the stupidest, most immature thing possible with a motorized industrial piece of equipment.  Suddenly forklifts become multi-passenger, pallet jacks are midget racers and destruction of life and property never becomes a thought or concern, because the boss isn’t here to see it!
In days of yore when brawn was more important in a warehouse/manufacturing then brains, horseplay was pretty common as screwing around kept everyone loose and laughing during the demanding workday day.  Along with the colorful language, graphic humor and crass jokes, scores were settled with a fist and the occasional medicinal nip was to keep your parts well oiled and ease the pain of the brutal working conditions.  Just in the last 40 years I’ve watched leadership evolve from verbal berating on the shop floor for all to see to you’re weren’t hired to think, to verbal encouragement, taking input from workers and free thinking.  The tendency for supervisors and managers, especially new ones is to be a nice guy and if the boys need to be boys, well who am I to stand in their way, except you allowing it to go on and not saying anything, in their heads condones their actions.  You can be a nice guy in so many other ways and that’s when true leadership comes in as it can turn around any challenge your facility may face. 
Coming in to help a facility change it’s culture, the worst thing you can do is make immediate changes in a knee jerk reaction.  Yes, you’re under pressure from upper management, you’re under pressure from sales, customer service and the customers who want their orders delivered correctly.  The added pressure of poor moral and high worker turnover and HR is tired of the constant recruiting and interviews.  Remember, these problems didn’t develop over night and you have no idea what the root cause is. Is it their training, the process, the equipment, the recruiting or their supervision?  The best way to find out is allow the operation to continue as usual, walk around and engage and listen to the people.  Check over their training records and make a list of where the gaps need to be filled.  I’ve always started with introducing myself to the staff backed up with doughnuts and coffee and explain to them know my position on workplace safety and that is, because I believe everyone should go home in one piece and then stick to your position treating everyone equally and fairly.  Too further back up your commitment to safety begin having a 5 minute daily huddle at the beginning of the shift, a weekly tailgate/toolbox meeting and a monthly safety meeting.  Going this route hopefully you should be able to eliminate the term “boys will be boys” in your workplace.
Even so every once in a while a dinosaur pops-up, like this coach who thought the best way to motivate a player was to mock him in front of all.   SF school coach in hot water for alleged racially charged mocking.  This was a style of management back in the day.  A good deal of my High School teachers and coaches were Korean War Vets and when it came to doing what you were told to do, there was zero tolerance if you didn’t.  Our electric shop teacher had a paddle he had affectionately named Bertha.  He didn’t hesitate to introduce Bertha to your behind if you didn’t follow the rules.  We didn’t question it.  We knew and understood the consequences if we didn’t do what we were suppose too and punishment whether corporal or otherwise was deemed acceptable.  When you’re leading or coaching employees there is no need to call them names or give them degrading nicknames, mock or bully their physical appearance to get the results you want, you’re actually going to build a wall and choke off all communication.  The best thing to do is build a bridge by explaining your expectations and what can you do to help them be successful and achieve their goals which should mean success for you and your team.
Have you heard of the skills gap?  That thing we created in 2008 when the financial crisis hit and companies kicked all the veteran high paid labor to the door with layoffs and downsizing without any thought to the future.  People opted for other career paths and now, we have a skills gap.  Well you and your company can take care of that and develop a sustainable supply of talented employees.  Employers Have An Important Role To Play In Closing The Skills Gap.  With a good training and mentoring program in addition to offering internships to high school and college students, you can develop your own intelligent workforce, greatly increase employee retention and improve safety and productivity.  
Even the best leadership at times can get lost in trying to do what they think is the right thing, like some of our board of supervisors in San Francisco.  San Francisco officials propose banning contractors that bid on border wall from city work I’m not going to get into the politics of “the wall”, we all have our opinion but what I don’t like to see is politicians making matters worse for the working person.  Maybe if our leaders stopped worrying about punishing who builds “the wall” and concentrated on fixing the infrastructure which is in much NEEDED REPAIR companies would be so busy they wouldn’t need the business of the wall to keep their company and employees working.
Since we’re on the bay area, an update on Oakland.  Last month we covered the Ghost ship warehouse fire and the loss of 39 lives.  The leadership in Oakland verbalized their fears and concerns over and over about this.  As usual, it was talk, talk and more talk and now last week, guess what?  Yep we had another fire.  It took 2 deadly fires to make Schaaf push hard for inspectors and 4 more precious lives were lost due to being talked to death by the cities leadership.  We’ll keep an eye on the body count for you readers as the talk and more talk goes on.  By the way, it’s not just the lack of inspectors but the process that needs to be reviewed and improved as problems keep falling through the cracks but that will take leadership to fix so don’t hold your breath.
With the news blackout going on at OSHA, because you know, information is a dangerous thing to have go around, people may begin thinking for themselves there has been on new bright spot.  Jordan Barab, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor at OSHA from 2009-2017 has started a blog called “Confined Space”.   Follow it!!  It’s a great source of what’s going on in workplace safety.

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.

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RBMB-Your Medical Records Aren’t As Safe As You Think


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. 


Companies Behaving Badly-YEAR END

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Welcome back, Happy Holidays, thank you for stopping by.  As you may know, OSHA recently released it’s annual top 10 violations for 2016 which quickly made the rounds. People offered their opinions about it,  criticized and pointed wagging fingers as those for more regulation and those for less regulation stood their ground on principle refusing to compromise while people continued to die.  So without further ado, may I present to you OSHA’s top 10 violations for 2016.
#1 – FALLS
NOW A MESSAGE FROM THE GRIM REAPER.   FALLS #1, 6 years in a row!!!
This information is nice so we know how we stack up against others in the country and where resources and training may need to be directed but is it really useful information? What does it tell us besides giving us reason to be thankful and feel superior since we were lucky enough to have experienced none of the violations on the list?  So instead of the OSHA top ten I would like to offer my Top 5 violations for 2016.
#1 – GREED.  The love of profits over the love of humanity. No money spent of safety, in fact the word isn’t even allowed to be spoken but if safety generated income for a business, it’d never be an issue.  Ever.
#2 – STUPIDITY.  You can’t coach stupid nor can you manage stupid but people seem somehow to still do so by putting people in danger, over riding safety shut off mechanisms to keep production going at all costs, adjusting machinery without using LOTO or blocking emergency exits with merchandise and equipment. That’s half of stupid, the other half are those who refuse to wear PPE or use fall protection gear and consistently put themselves in harms way.
#3 – LACK OF TRAINING.  Why waste time and energy in training employees on how to respond to an emergency whether fire, chemical or natural, it’ll never happen here, right?  Or how to properly use and wear PPE or how to properly operate a forklift.  Too much information in too little time.  They’ll learn as they go.  What could go wrong?
#4 – LACK OF RESPECT – for your workforce.  Don’t treat them as idiots, give them the materials and training they need to be successful and do their job with confidence. Explain what the expectations are and the consequences for non compliance and say Thank You for a job well done.
#5 – COMMUNICATION – This includes listening to your employees concerns about working conditions and process improvement and then answering those concerns with feedback and developing an on going conversation of respect to solve issues and make your operation stronger.

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.


Just Putting It Out There – Knee Jerk



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.


Your social success

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.


Just Putting It Out There – Leadership The Glue That Binds it All.

Luke Walton & Steve Kerr

Luke Walton & Steve Kerr

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.

Bruce Bochy - S.F. Giants

Bruce Bochy – S.F. Giants

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. 

Golden State Warriors - 2014-2015 NBA Champions

Golden State Warriors – 2014-2015 NBA Champions


Just Putting It Out There – J’accuse


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.