The Company Civil War

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Everyone wants to think they’re in charge.  Some sales and marketing departments think they’re in charge.  Some think manufacturing is in charge and some think purchasing and supply chain is in charge.

In the vast city known as Candy-Land (protecting the real company name) there existed but only three gangs who had divvy-up the city and totally controlled it.  All three not only ruled their territories with tyrannical deceit and ruthlessness but were often at war with each other at one time or another.  If only the feuds were about something constructive but always more personal between the gang leaders then anything else.  There was one gang known as Creations and they were ruthless but more civilized of the three in their approach.  Their mission was to make the “product” and dry it before transporting the product to the bins.

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The other two gangs were constantly at each other’s throats with skirmishes popping up a few times a week not so much from the gang members hating each other, they did but the leaders despised each other.  The leader of the gang called the Wrappers was Pete the sweet a very ugly, short and vulgar man.  Across town, where the gang the DC ruled their leader, Raoul who was tall, muscular and good looking spoke softly since he was a former boxer and often let his fists carry the conversation.  As I said, the two didn’t get along at all and were constantly in full-blown shouting matches right in full view of everyone mano y mano.

The Wrappers were an interesting bunch.  They would take the dried product from the bins and get it ready for transport to the buyers by packaging it in nice colorful paper of all sizes from one pound boxes to 100 pounds bags to attract as many buyers as possible.  Pete the sweet had illusions of grandeur as he believed he could tell people in the other gangs what to do or how to do it so it wouldn’t affect his gang in their quest to meet packaging goals and his bonus.  This interference enraged the other leaders but really angered Raoul no end who may have taken a punch to many as he believed he should be in charge of all the territories.

The games afoot:

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When the DC was having problems with the ASRS (read The Company Hostage) and stopped the putaway of pallets of packaged product into storage this enraged Pete the sweet as having people standing around drove him crazy.  So he decided to go to the DC and tell them how to fix the problem and get it going.  He huffed and he puffed, he threatened and he intimidated, but it all fell on deaf ears since we were already busy doing what we needed to do.  It was easy to ignore him since Raoul had told us earlier to ignore Pete and then call to update him but what really made it easy was our gang really didn’t like the Wrappers so when he went directly to the workers they took pleasure in ignoring him as well and made Pete even angrier when he heard, you’re not my boss.

On the off shifts, when Pete wasn’t around had instructed his lieutenants to climb out of their trees and confront us on what was happening in the DC every time the packaging lines stopped.  We ignored them too or just outright lied on how long it would be down just to really send them into a frenzy as they then had to call and wake Pete at home to update him and he wasn’t so sweet.  He would call the ASRS room where of course they also ignored him but more because they were busy working to get the system back up and running.

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There was no team building going on here unless you want to call telling your gang to ignore the leaders of other gangs team building.  I watched as lots of walls were erected between departments as each was surrounded in its own secrecy and not daring to allow anyone else to know their plans for that day, week or month all within the same plant.  The current owners, an investment company, still searching for a buyer had no idea how to handle the situation and didn’t want to invest let alone lose any more money and sent out this one and only in edict in early October as production numbers took a dive, “work things out”.

As with a lot of other companies, the holidays, Thanksgiving thru Christmas were our biggest season for sales, so much so to keep up with the orders we had to begin to produce and stockpile inventory right after labor day in September or we’d never meet the demand and lose sales.  For some reason, each gang leader interrupted the edict from the owner as giving them the authority to be in charge to get things done which turned ugly later in the month.

The day started like any other day.  A quick huddle with my crew and we laid out several scenarios that could happen and how we would respond.  We had spent the weekend clearing out a large storage area in the back of the facility where we could stack pallets of product in the event of the ASRS going down.  The holidays were on the horizon and sales and marketing people were loudly crying about not enough product out in the stores.  We were all trying.  The Creations were having issues cooking up the product, The Wrappers had packaging machine issues and the DC had the ASRS.  We were literally holding things together with chewing gum, baling wire, and duct tape.

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As fate would have it our luck and the duct tape didn’t hold out.  Something fell from a pallet jamming the conveyor in the ASRS and snapping the drive chain and taking out a license plate reader.  The DC gang began moving the product by forklift as fast as we could but the hallway that led to the makeshift storage area was narrow and we couldn’t go very fast but we were keeping the factory going.  Raoul came to assess the situation and told the palletizers to slow down so we could keep up with the product coming out and take it to storage.  Emergency repairs to the ASRS were beginning but we knew it’d be down for the day if not longer.  Raoul also knew it was going to be a long day and as he had done before and one of the reasons I liked him had pizza delivered to feed his gang as we were in constant motion to keep the other gangs happy and busy as well.

Pete the sweet was having none of it.  He didn’t care what was happening in the DC and that we were making every effort to keep the factory going.  He didn’t like the palletizers were slowed and even though the packaging was able to continue it wasn’t at the pace Pete wanted.  Pete only cared about Pete and how all this was personally directed at him.  He believed what happened was only intended to hurt him and him alone.  He didn’t care whether the company made the goal or not, he didn’t care for training or safety either and was known to order others to cut corners on safety.  If they got away with it he applauded them for their ingenuity but if they got caught he’d throw them under the bus.  Yet his gang knew in order to survive in the Wrappers you had to do what he wanted or suffer the consequences with abuse and bullying.

The showdown finally came, right there in the middle of the facility.  Pete and Raoul face to face yelling, screaming, cursing and threatening each other.  Pete loudly criticized Raoul for buying pizza, not a time to eat!  Raoul disagreed and told Pete he didn’t have to defend his actions to anyone let alone a little dictator.  The louder they got the more people from all the gangs lined the floor, the mezzanine, and the rafters until it looked and sounded like a sell-out crowd at a Golden State Warriors game with various shouts of encouragement from the crowd.  Hit him!  Don’t take that crap, Pete!  Punch him out, Raoul.  The cheers, the chants, the calls for blood, if I didn’t know better I could have been at the Colosseum in Rome watching gladiators.  We could see that Raoul was getting ready to end the conversation and let his fists speak.  There was no production going on at all.

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Finally, another lieutenant from the DC and myself decided to end this and jumped between the two combatants and while Carl began trying to calm down Pete while he backed him up I was pleading with our leader, Raoul to take this discussion to an office, in private.  The adrenalin was surging through my body and my heart racing as I started to think of things to say and babbled, You’re better than this. You don’t want to hit him here there are too many witnesses.  At one point in desperation, I supposedly said to him, the pizza is getting cold, I don’t remember this with all the excitement going on but it actually made him stop, look at me and brought a smile to his face as he caught his composure.  He chuckled and said, You’re right Phil, the pizza is getting cold and we walked to his office.

It took a day and a half before the ASRS was fully operational and even then still continued with the usual ups and downs.  With the efforts and hard work of staff, we were able to meet most of the demand with some late shipments going out at discounted rates as make it up to the customers for previous short shipments.  Raoul and Pete continued their feud and that alone was more of a disruption to the plant than any equipment failures.  It even became more difficult for the Superintendents and forepeople to manage the day to day activities not knowing what would break down next.  Sick calls increased and people just didn’t want to come to work and I can’t say I blame them but now, that all didn’t matter as rumors of a new buyer for the plant began to swirl and we could all feel the change in the air.

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The Company Hostage

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The company had a very old ASRS, Automated Storage and Retrieval System to store the majority of it’s finished product inventory.  We were in transition as the company had gone into receivership and was run by an investment corporation that was trying to keep overall costs as low as possible while they prayed and searched for a buyer.  The system was so old that in the era of CD drives it still used floppy disc to operate the system that was, to say the least, fragile.  It could freeze up due to trouble reading a dirty license plate or from a loud sneeze or other inexplicable reason and have to be rebooted.

The cost to upgrade was enough that our benevolent keepers felt hiding their heads in the sand and ignoring the problem would magically make it stop hurting the bottom line but it was every time the ASRS was down.  It interfered with production in that when you can’t put the product into storage you can’t keep packaging it and when you can’t retrieve product to ship you can’t invoice.  In addition, a lot of overtime was spent on having workers move and stack product anywhere they could in the facility so the packaging of the product could continue but that also led to inventory issues of lost and misplaced product which became a nightmare for our production scheduler. 

Our keepers also didn’t see how over time the leadership on-site had surrendered its authority and through attrition and neglect, there was only a handful of employees left who not only knew how to operate the ASRS but how to keep it going and no one in management noticed the pending issue or thought to make plans for rectifying the situation because they were too busy putting out fires or pointing fingers at one another. 

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Things had actually been moving along pretty well during the last few weeks with only a few minor hiccups of the ASRS and word the company may have found a new owner but on this particular warm sunny afternoon, a few employees were caught smoking a joint in the back of the shipping building.  Marijuana was not yet legal in any form in any state and in accordance with the company zero tolerance policy, they were terminated on the spot. The problem was of the five caught smoking, three were ASRS operators which was more than half the staff as well half the only people who could operate the system.  

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The “IT” really hit the fan, of course, during the graveyard shift after they had forced swing shift for four hours, allowable by contract no one else showed up to operate the ASRS.  Management hadn’t realized that there was no one else available that had been trained to operate the system.  They had screwed-up royally and were behind the eight ball.  No communication or verification nothing but an all night long battle of survival as pallets of product were stacked five high down corridors, hallways any open space was fair game as production had to pack out the product already produced within a specific time frame.  The company in a word had been taken, hostage.

The ASRS operators still available were refusing over time even the forced four hours and the union was standing up for them pointing out the safety issues of working all the extra hours and demanding the return of the fired workers while not allowing the training of any additional ASRS personnel keeping the company hostage.  After a few days of keeping on their game face, and saying everything was all right the company quietly began to negotiate an end to the hostage situation along with dealing with the backlog of the finished product all over the facility.  The deal eventually worked out after hours of negotiating brought back all the terminated employees, they all had to attend drug and alcohol rehabilitation, were on a one-year probation for drug use, had to train additional employees and management as well as document procedures on the ASRS while the company promised and began the painful process of upgrading the system to twenty-first century technology.

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This is a lesson that was not cheap.  The overtime alone to count inventory and to get all the finished product into the ASRS system was ridiculous and it took weeks to get shipping and invoicing back to normal.  A binder was created with all the information needed so that even a caveman could operate the ASRS and the cost of the upgrade was hovering at $One Million.  This all could have been avoided and not an issue if upper management kept their eye on the big picture and allowed their supervisors and managers to do their job of training and documenting training but they had no experience in manufacturing and were lost in all the complexities of an aging system and ancient techniques while trying to meet the demands of today.

As I’ve said many times you reap what you sow.  You don’t have to be a boss hogs taskmaster but you must hold people accountable for their actions after a thorough explanation of the rules, expectations, and consequences.  You are in charge of your realm of the kingdom that makes up the company so RUN IT!  Be proactive, do a yearly hazard inspection, check emergency gear, create a safety committee, do your walk and be on the floor 80% of the time so you know what’s going on and what your workers are dealing with.  For more tips and ideas on leadership or if you have questions please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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Companies Behaving Badly-Training

 

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Welcome back and thanks for stopping by.  Hope your April Fools Day wasn’t too brutal.

There is no doubt in my mind that TRAINING is the most important aspect of any safety program.  Having employees who know what to do and how to do it without losing fingers, limbs or their lives makes for a fabulously productive shift.  However training is not a one time deal but a continuous process, assembling the many layers over time such as first-day safety orientation, monthly safety meetings, weekly tailgate/toolbox meetings, daily huddles, emergency drills, PPE, LOTO, operating different or new machinery, forklift certification, and refreshers.  The more opportunities to have an open discussion on safety along with input from everyone involved makes it all the better.

To be successful at training means you got the point you wanted to make across to the group while being focused and with a little entertaining in your message that is geared to your audience.  When you tell your fable of safety to the group and end with the moral of the story you want to sound real, you want to sound credible so use situations that have occurred on other shifts or as sister plants or in trade magazines.  When speaking to a group of young new workers you don’t want to sound like a lecturing dad, they’ll just tune you out and they’ll never hear the message.  It helps to get them involved in the training.  What’s their experience with this piece of machinery.  What are their concerns and how would they handle an emergency shut off or LOTO on the packaging machine you’re featuring in this weeks tailgate/toolbox meeting.  Also, use handouts, videos, and demonstrations to help your presentation.

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It does take work to ensure all the training.  When I had 64 employees working at 10 different stations on a shift, to get the weekly toolbox/tailgate completed you need to stagger the meeting.  Went to the first station and spoke with the 5 workers there about the topic and got feedback, then continued down the hall to the next station and spoke with the 7 workers there and continued throughout the shift until I had made contact with all.  If there were no fires to put out that shift I might get to all 64 but sometimes it takes two days to get it done.  To accomplish a monthly safety meeting I’d split the shift in half to keep production going, limited but at least not stopped and do one group early in the shift and the second half after first breaks.  There are always ways to get it done, don’t be afraid to be creative.  Even though these meetings are critical you can’t help but take some time away from production and that’s where some companies go crazy.

Thirty minutes for a safety meeting!? Did you guys have a party last night?  Those are just a few of the comments I would get but didn’t care since wasn’t about to discourage people from asking questions or interrupting them while they discuss a serious safety concern.  But this too is solvable by making friends with the head production scheduler.  We sat down and had coffee and learned about each other’s goals and for those days he could give us light nights I would get safety meetings done and still make our daily production goals.  Win, win.

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However, there are still those companies that believe spending money on training is a waste.  As our friends at, Dollar Tree stores cited again and fined maximum for putting workers at risk This has become an annual event finding the same safety violations occurring again and again and now the state of Washington is fining them $306,000 for willful violations.  Willful means the company knew they were putting workers in danger but didn’t bother to do anything about it.  It’s kind of hard not to block emergency exits or electrical panels when you’re not trained on safety hazards.  It’s hard to work safely with chemicals when your employer doesn’t train you how to properly use chemicals and how to safely and properly clean up a spill.  The problem is not just putting employees in danger but any customer entering the store to do business.  I would think twice if it were me.  Corporate could easily fix this, but then that would require thought, carrying out a plan and spending money which are all things I don’t think this company’s executives are capable of doing.

It’s nice to enjoy your job, that’s fabulous but if you get stoned on the job, what if an emergency arises?  Too Many Cannabis Industry Employees Impaired At Work.  This is a serious problem and a big liability to the owners.  Bartenders are not allowed to drink on the job and I know a lot of Cannabis clubs forbid smoking by employees on the premises since in the case of an emergency someone needs to be in charge and alert!  Needless to say, I’m sure their training covered this and it’s up to the club to enforce the rules or they lose their credibility.  It’s a shame that it’s always a few the ruin it for the rest of us due to their ignorance. 

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The Welsh government understands the importance of refresher safety training and are offering workshops to local farmers so they can avoid being part of the rise in farm-related accidents.  Farmers urged to kick-start health and safety training.  Nice to see they are not looking for reasons to fine them but working with them so they can continue to be productive and in one piece.  As it should be.

This professor says the workplace is the fifth leading cause of #death in the U.S.  Did you hear that?  5th leading cause.  This professor says the workplace is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S..  You can spend less time dead.  Know where emergency exits are located, listen for alarms, avoid working with distractions and most of all use all PPE that is available and use common sense.

Mark your calendars it’s Stand Down 2018–Preventing Falls in Construction : Fifth Annual Stand-Down Set for May 7-11  BE PART OF THE SOLUTION

That’s it for this episode.  If you begin a new job and there is no safety training or use of PPE then it may be time to find another job.  Never keep quiet about safety, for the life you save, maybe your own.

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Companies Behaving Badly-Integrity

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

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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. 

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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.

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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.  

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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.

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Companies Behaving Badly-Justified

Welcome back.
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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) 
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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!
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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. 
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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.
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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

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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.

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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
#2 – HAZARD COMMUNICATION
#3 – SCAFFOLDING
#4 – RESPIRATORY PROTECTION
#5 – LOCK OUT TAG OUT
#6 – POWERED INDUSTRIAL TRUCKS
#7 – LADDERS
#8 – MACHINE GUARDING
#9 – ELECTRCAL WIRING METHODS
#10 – ELECTRICAL GENERAL REQUIREMENTS
NOW A MESSAGE FROM THE GRIM REAPER.   FALLS #1, 6 years in a row!!!
THANK YOU!
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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.

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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.  

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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.

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