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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Companies Behaving Badly-Dust in the Wind

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Welcome back.

Life. It’s such a precious commodity.  Each one of us is an original work of art and like snowflakes no two of us are alike (with the exception of twins (triplets and so on).  We each have our own unique personality, developed deep in the gray matter, our brain which is really who we are.  What ever vessel that brain is put into, a white, brown, yellow or green one, hopefully we contribute to making this world a better place for EVERYONE!

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However, we still are our own worst enemies.  No matter the amount of training, hours of instruction, years of experience and the little voice in the back of your head that you still ignore, you go out of your way to touch that third rail.  Just this once, really, just once.  It’s close to break.  Then as if that’s not enough of a reason as to why we’re our own enemy, there are still workers to listen to their terrible bosses who don’t care about their safety and accept putting themselves in harms way.  Some just do it, cause the boss said so.  Some are threatened with termination or being outted to ICE.

A boss can’t threaten you, it is illegal and they can’t force you to commit an unsafe act.  I’ve told a supervisor no, when asked to raise a worker standing on a wooden pallet using a forklift.  I knew it was wrong and so did he.  He did realize he was wrong as well, after I mentioned it wasn’t a good example for him to set.  Sometimes it works.  I know, you have a family to feed, you have bills to pay.  I understand, I’ve been there.  You can speak to your HR department or you can make an anonymous call to the OSHA Hotline – 1-800-321-6742(OSHA)   It’s your decision but may I ask?  Who will take care of your family if you are killed on the job?  Do you think the company will say you were a company man, he went out on the roof without his fall protection gear like a real man or will they throw you under the buss and say you didn’t follow the safety rules.  

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We won’t go into what makes people do some of the bad things they do like cutting corners on safety, (GREED) or not having proper PPE available or even not giving any training or instruction.  Companies headed by people like that will not think twice about putting a worker in danger for the sake of a few dollars more in their pocket.  This makes no sense and I’m sure if presented to Mr. Spock he would say it’s illogical, why?  After spending all that time and money on interviewing, selection and hiring, training, developing and promotions why would you put them out like a lamb to the slaughter? Well yes, a company behaving badly wouldn’t bother with the cost of training or a proper safety program.

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Speaking of those who sell their soul for a few pieces of silver.  Don’t tell anyone about the fire risks: Safety consultant hired to inspect Grenfell Tower urged council to hide failings – and he’s an ex-firefighter  Yes, that right.  A former firefighter and current safety consultant, advised his clients to hide the truth.  I know the truth has been a very inconvenient reality to some of late with so many alternate ones to deal with.  If you want to know the name of and what a scumbag looks like you can click on the story. He had the opportunity to do the right thing but chose not too and gave other advisors and consultants a black eye in the process.  You owe it to your client and the humans you’ll never meet to do the best job you can so they can enjoy their journeys.  Life is precious but apparently not all treasure the commodity.  It would be nice if the 80 souls lost in that horrible fire would visit him for one long night.  Remember, your actions do have consequences.  Can you live with them?

So is it a culture thing?  TECO accounts for nearly half of Florida power plant deaths, data shows  This company is not on the level of above but it is apparent that they do not have a good safety program in place and are not covering the basics.  When you look at all the power plants in the state and you are one worker death shy of half of them, you have a problem and usually it’s that a safety culture is not being supported by upper management, which means they need to be replaced.  Even two power plant safety experts said that 9 deaths in 20 years is unusual.  The company in their defense offered this time tested alternate truth in a statement, “Safety is the No. 1 priority at Tampa Electric.”  

Yes Virginia, dust can explode and kill.  In fact dust can kill two ways, the lingering death of lung disease from 20 years of breathing at work or the quick death of an explosion. The Next Phase In Industrial Dust Explosion Protection  When dust is allowed to accumulate around the work area or heavy in the air a tiny spark can blow you across the room and that’s why better ways of removing dust and reducing the exploding hazard is always appreciated and much needed.  

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Why training remains critical to safety.  When dealing with confined space there is very little room for error and why it is so important to have been properly trained, use retrieval systems and have constant open lines of communication.  During this month, 3 men died in Saipan when they were over come by toxic fumes.  When the first man passed out, it was human nature to aid a friend and he jumped in and was overcome.  The same happened to the third man.  3 deaths in manhole could have been avoided.  It’s natural to jump in to help but what are you jumping into?  The same with someone being electrocuted.  Your natural instinct is to pull them off the live wire, but that is not the way to go.  You need a non-conductive pole to pull them off to protect yourself and save them.  If they had the proper training and equipment they would have known this.  But what’s so eerie is back in January of this year, 3 men died in a very similar fashion in South Florida.  OSHA: Safety Failures Led To Workers’ Death In Key Largo Manhole  The company was hit with a proposed fine of $119,507, for three lives, after 10 serious violations were found.  Six lives lost because no one bothered to check.  People, wake up, please think before you react but if you know how, you can react better.  You can go the the OSHA website and find out what to expect when working in a confined space situation.  Learn for yourself how to stay alive.

The United State Post Office continues to have no problem putting their employees in harms way.  They forced them to drive forklifts that should have been out of service, they expose them to exposed wires and blocked emergency exits, the wouldn’t even allow them to call 9-1-1 directly when a medical emergency arose, and a man died due to this. Now they forced them to work in extreme high temperatures.  Richmond post office workers walk off job after working without AC  Employees working in the sorting and loading area where working under a heat index of over 100, (The Heat Index is a measure of how hot it really feels when relative humidity is factored in with the actual air temperature.)  To bad their union has remained deaf, dumb and blind.

I have no problem when it comes to awarding contracts for Federal, state, local municipalities that the companies safety record come into play.  After all, don’t we want the best working on public places?  Here’s one reason why.   Oregon hired a company to paint the Ross Island Bridge without knowing its safety record. Then a worker fell.

Well I think that’s it for this issue folks.  The good news in all this is that bad bosses and bad owners that don’t care about you are only 20% that create 80% of the problems and we know that thanks to Pareto’s principle.  You can take charge of your safety as well.  Read and Learn as much as you can and don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Has an atmosphere test been taken?   Is the ventilations system working?  Watch how an old timer works, what does he do?  Find a mentor or be one.  Join the safety committee and be an advocate.  Thee is so much you can do but most of all, be kind to one another, be ethical in your dealings and always be truthful.  Never keep quiet about safety for the life you save may be your own.  Until next month.

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The Green Brick Road of Safety-A Chronicle

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Companies Behaving Badly-Stop it!

 

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Welcome back to Companies Behaving Badly.  Hope you had a fun and relaxing July 4th weekend.

Let’s get right too it, shall we.  Stop it!  Really. Stop it, right now.  There is no need to continue this madness people. It’s time we STOP and end FALLS, 7 year reign as OSHA’s #1 violation and killer.  Stop the falls.  There have been stand downs, press coverage, news stories, National Safety Month and yet.  Stop the falls.  No more lies to yourself, no more excuses and no more falls.  In case you didn’t know, you are no less of a man for using fall protection gear and if anyone questions it, remember, they’re the fool.  Oh it won’t happen to me.  I’m sure that’s what these guys said before their falls.

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Cal-OSHA Opens Inquiry into Worker’s Death – He died from a 12 foot fall.               OSHA probes worker’s fatal fall in Cherry Hill – 14 stories, at least he had time to pray on the way down.  Worker falls 50 feet from building at construction site – Very lucky man, not dead but suffered significant injuries.  Indy worker falls to his death off Tippecanoe Co. roof – He fell 17 feet and died with his safety vest on but it was not properly anchored to anything.  That seems to be the best way it works.  Man falls off apartment building in Lacey – Another lucky guy but will he learn from this experience?  Worker Falls 30 Feet From Roof of NFL Draft Stage at Art Museum – 30 foot fall and survived but hospitalized.  MAN FALLS TO HIS DEATH AT DOWNTOWN ATHENS CONSTRUCTION SITE – He fell 40 feet so he had time to think what he did wrong but now won’t get the chance to tell anyone about his experience.   Official: Window Washer Dies After Fall in Brooklyn – he didn’t even bother to put on a harness.  Maybe he was never told or just didn’t like the fashion statement.  Then there is this one OSHA fines Ross Island Bridge paint contractor $189,000 for safety violations that led to near-fatal accident where a worker fell 37 feet and landed on another worker who turned out to be his son.  They’re fine and the company was hit with fines.

I could go on and on but hope the point has been made.  Don’t wear fall protection gear and use it properly, odds are you will die.  If you insist this can’t happen to you and don’t need to wear some harness, fine, but when you leave your loved ones this morning to go to work, hug them and say goodbye like it’s the last time they’ll see you alive.   YOU are the answer to not dying.  YOU are the solution to stopping falls.  YOU.  So stop it.

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It also shouldn’t take a catastrophic event to get your focus on the safety of your employees.  Stop it, stop the lame excuses.  It is in the best interest of your business and the safety of your customers and employees if they are trained and prepared to deal with an emergency or the operating of equipment.  Do you want the press and tv news in your face wanting answers?  Do you want to be explaining to OSHA why you ignored the situation?  Do you want to have to tell the families why the backup equipment failed and their loved ones died. Why management stood by and kept quiet.  Telling a skeptical world your side of the story and how it’s not your fault, we take safety seriously here at (name here) and the well being of our employees is number one concern?  Yes, yes it is, right after you got caught.  Finger point, finger point. Ah, but wait, we have a new way to do things.  It’s called alternate truth or as your granddad used to call it, lying!  Since the facts will never back our view of things, we’ll make facts up and craft to get our point across.  From now on all employee injuries will be termed as self inflicted.  At no time are we at fault or blame.  If they can’t operate a machine they weren’t trained to operate without hurting themselves, it’s there own fault. 

Goodwill has a stellar reputation. It’s falling short in the death of Abraham Garza.   Dave Goudie, a commercial driver at Goodwill, had warned managers about safety hazards and inadequate training at the Franklin Boulevard facility.  Then last September, he witnessed a horrible accident when another Goodwill worker, Abraham Nicholas Garza, a 26-year-old father of a young boy, was crushed to death operating a compactor. Rather then listen to Mr. Goudie’s concerns and thanking him for bringing it to their attention they instead blamed him for Garza’s death and then fired him after he spoke with Cal/OSHA investigators and accepted no blame at all.  However Cal/OSHA found that Goodwill failed to establish safety procedures and that there were unsafe working conditions, busting Goodwills lie and fining them $106,675 for the 6 violations found, 4 of which were serious.  Our tale doesn’t end there as  A death. A widening probe. Does Goodwill endanger workers?  Someone at Cal/OSHA thought, if this place had safety violations what’s going on at the other stores they oversee?  We should take a closer look!  That’s what you invite when you ignore the basic safety concepts like training.  As I would tell my supervisors, if you keep it clean, safe and organized, no one else will look closer.  Hope that Goodwill does the right thing and work this all out so everyone can have a safe place to work.

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Another compactor death across the country.  OSHA Fines East Brunswick Salvage Yard Where Man Was Killed  If you don’t know what you are doing or if you haven’t received training to operate, stay clear.  These machines can be dangerous if not handled properly.  There is no shame in asking questions.

This next story is a great illustration of the all too often results from horseplay.  Minnesota woman seeking YouTube fame fatally shoots boyfriend in stunt gone wrong.  Just like with horseplay, what seemed like a great idea, without any forethought or preparation of how to or what the end result could be just for the immediate gratification of a immature funny bone.  Yea, shooting you sounds real funny dear. Doing donuts on the forklift, sounds like real fun.  We’ll get lots of hits on youtube, we’ll be sensations, we’ll be famous daredevils and everyone will know that, Oh, I killed you, on accident?  See, fun until someone gets hurt.  Will you be willing to be held accountable for your actions?  If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.  Treat your job with respect and be professional during the whole shift.  There is no need to use equipment like a bored teenager.  It creates costs your company doesn’t need for equipment and possible worker lost time for a stupid prank.  

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The Grenfell fire in the U.K. is a great tragedy that has exposed human depravity at its lowest.  Don’t tell anyone about the fire risks: Safety consultant hired to inspect Grenfell Tower urged council to hide failings – and he’s an ex-firefighter  The failure of leadership driven by greed, that ignored public safety and allowed fellow human beings to live in unsafe housing.  After the fire, so far over 60 buildings inspected have failed fire emergency tests!  60!  The use of cheaper materials that created toxic smoke that killed people long before the flames could ever reach them. However the most disgusting act committed was by the safety inspector who sold his soul and told the council to hide the safety flaws.  He was paid to point them out for the building council so they could address them and instead this fool said, let’s hide them. No one needs to know about them.  What’s the worst thing that could happen?  Like a bad doctor or lawyer, this moron should not be allowed to practice workplace safety anywhere.  If you hate other human beings that much to not care at all what happens to them, to think there is nothing wrong with putting them in harms way, then you need to live on an island somewhere.  All People Matter.  Each person is not better, not worse, just different.

I am really impressed with companies that see a problem, make the adjustments needed and problem goes away.  The reason you don’t hear much about them is because they fix it with No fanfare, no banners, no parades.  What you do hear is the other companies that complain loudly almost every.  Oh the skills gap is hurting us, oh the shortage of workers is hurting us.  What are we to do.  Well, those quiet companies are looking into internships and apprenticeships to help build a team of talented, trained and ready workers.  Nebraska Companies Join Effort To Connect Youths To Careers  There are lots of young folks who love to work with their hands and mind.  A career in manufacturing can be very rewarding.  

Thank you to all who participated in June during the National Safety Month.  When it comes to safety at the workplace, YOU are just as much responsible as your boss or company.  You can say NO to unsafe practices.  You can insist on using the proper PPE and safety procedures.  Get the conversation going, be part of the safety committee, voice your concerns and never keep quiet about safety.  Learn the correct way and be a mentor to others.  For the life you save, may be your own.  Until July 20th. Stay safe.

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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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RBMB – Non Profit Safety

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

Companies Behaving Badly-Functionality

Functionality – the quality or state of being functional a design that is admired both for its beauty and for its functionality; especially

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Welcome back.  Hope your Memorial Weekend was restful and reflective.  
This episode of Companies Behaving Badly began with a seed planted by a blog post that was nourished by a vacation experience.  The blog is “Squawk Point” by James Lawther.  I happen to enjoy his writing style but mostly it’s his refreshing point of view of things that attracts me.  The post, Human Error exposes lazy leadership that always assumes, any issue in productivity or safety is due only to human error and never functionality. However we know there is good leadership out there that will actually stop and listen and take a look at the issue.  Which type of leader you want to be is all up to you.  Folks like James and I can lead you to water, whether you drink it, I guess depends on how thirsty you are for knowledge and thought but please don’t give me any of that it’s the culture.  You are the culture.
This human error assumption applies all too often in warehousing, production and manufacturing.  If someone has a digit amputated by a moving part it’s not that the guards weren’t in place, it’s the employee’s fault.  If a new operations procedure fails it must be the workers fault for not understanding.  It’s all great and good when you make improvements in your facility especially when they increase productivity and makes it safer and easier for employees to operate machinery and handle difficult tasks.  I am here today to tell you I’ve survived improvement projects from both sides of the fence, as worker and as management.  What I learned is, even with management’s best intentions or the engineers best ideas or programmers best apps without input and buy-in from the workers who will actually be using the equipment/process you won’t get it right making the rollout difficult due to employee resistance and poor functionality, lowering the chances of success.
Think about how you feel when someone tries to force change on you that you weren’t consulted about.  You resist.  That’s how workers react.  However when you include them on the project team and take their input seriously you’ve now increased your chances of success greatly.
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Here’s a real example.  We had to fill 2000 pounds of product into a large bag referred too as a supersack. The brain trust without any input from workers installed new filler tubes to improve flow and produce more supersacks per shift.  However they positioned the fill tube where they thought it should go at the height they decided it should be.  The problem developed when our shorter workers tried to attach the bag to the fill tube, it was too high for many.  They struggled to get the bag on the tube that was over their head and was difficult to hold up their arms for a time while positioning the bag.  It was never taken into account that workers come in different heights.  Imagine that?  Instead this solution only created a new problem, the many creative ways, all unsafe, that workers came up with to compensate for the height difference. Stools, inverted pails, stacked wooden pallets and forklifts were drafted. Some supervisors looked the other way and some just said no!  Needless to say production of supersacks was inconsistent and began to suffer. 
Management, rather than say they made a mistake instead dug in their heels and took the stance it was too expensive and time consuming to lower the tube and instead put pressure on the employees to “make it work”.  You couldn’t count on having tall workers to do the job since seniority got you the better jobs in production and this was basically only for the rookies and very low seniority.  It only made things worse as people who didn’t have issues before were now complaining and others began calling in sick with arm strain so then the union dug in their heels.  Back and forth, yada, yada, yada, no real solutions to the problem.  After awhile it became hazardous as there were so many puddles from all the marking of territory, folks were slipping and sliding all over.  
When I first began working here a year earlier, I had made friends with the chief engineer.  He was one of those guys that always looked old and grizzled, even in his 40 year old Navy pictures.  Not only did he create and prefabricate anything a sailor or marine needed for over 20 years in the Navy, he also loved cigars.  I made sure to take my breaks around the time he did so I could be in the smoking area having a cigar.  One thing led to another, we exchanged a few cigars, had other similar interests and I soon had a new grizzled old friend who was a damn good engineer.  Then, one cool early morning during graveyard tour, while we enjoyed our cigar break the subject of the supersacks came up.  After discussing and tossing ideas back and forth, we, mostly him came up with a solution.   Instead of the stool or ladder, we came up with a metal bridge with railings that could be stood on confidently as it was extremely sturdy and easy to clean.  Everyone got to see it, touch it, stand on it and sniff it and then we got a unanimous yes!  The cost of lost production, ruffled feathers and stainless steel bridge probably cost as much, if not more as it would have to move the filler tube but could have cost even less if they had asked for input and listened to the workers in the first place.
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Then this functionality challenge popped up while on vacation.  For some reason someone decided that only one towel rack was enough in a bathroom, in a room made for two people.  That entails 2 bath towels, 2 face towels and 2 wash cloths.  The towel rack couldn’t accommodate all 6 towels.  It appears that the housekeepers were without any direction from management as each one employed their own solution to the lack of towel rack space which made for inconsistent presentation and interesting to see how each housekeeper decided what worked best.   
The first day, after some time searching, we found the bath towels folded and stacked on a shelf in the closet in the room and no where near the bathroom.  Then one day the bath towels were sitting on the side of the tub and one day sitting on the sink. Either the housekeepers didn’t think it important enough to report to management or maybe they did and management didn’t think it important enough to listen and just said, deal with it.  At times it was inconvenient but also fun as we bet on where the bath towels would be next. 
That’s how it goes with most Companies that behave badly.  They perceive a need and put a solution in place whether it’s the right one or not.  If you want to get maximum productivity from workers then you need to make it easier for them to do the job and not more difficult and that means asking them questions and listening to their answers. Once we got the supersack station up and running with the stainless steel bridge we doubled production however management didn’t learn a thing from this experience. Each improvement turned into a battle which was totally ridiculous and they wondered why they couldn’t consistently make their goals.  It only takes a few seconds to listen to employees and use their input and then you create a bond where they trust you and you take care of them.  Otherwise you’ll wind up with constant delays, grievances, injuries and just plain old fashion hurt feelings.

 

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Why the falls won’t stop. Because of you.  Worker killed in fall at Sutter Home winery in St. Helena Yes!  You.  Due to being lazy, stupid or just plain crazy enough to believe you’re immortal, some of you still don’t believe you need to wear fall prevention gear while you work over 6 feet from the ground.  I don’t know exactly what happened but from the info in the story I can tell that there was no cover or other fall protection placed over the skylight and he was not tethered.  No matter how easy the job looks, if you don’t wear proper fall protection gear you may not get a second chance and wind up evaluating your bad decision at the pearly gates.  

Suffocation has to be one of the most horrific ways to die.  Struggling and gasping for air as oxygen is slowly cut off.  The bodies natural instinct is to keep fighting, keep struggling to survive but the gasps get shorter, your lungs begin to burn and you can’t breath and finally you fade out. Unfortunately one man died like this in a trench collapse OSHA: Man killed in Acworth trench collapse worked for Bellows Falls company and another was rescued from a grain bin In the wake of grain bin accident safety officials urge caution.  When you work in a confined space like a grain bin or deep in a trench you should have received training on how to escape in the event of a cave-in.  That may mean ladders or a retrieval system.  When was the last time someone inspected the area?  Don’t assume everything has been taken care off, ask questions and use your own eyes.

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We’ll finish this episode with a look at two different leadership styles. There’s an old expression that my High School football coach used to say to death, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” and not everyone in the city of Oakland is getting that message.  With everything that has happened recently with the Ghost ship warehouse fire you’d think city department managers would take it up a notch and stay on top of hot spots to almost give a sense of competency to the public.  Yet the Oakland fire department on top of all their regular fire and emergency calls they handle also have to continue to fight fires on vacant city owned property and no one responsible seems to care or the gumtion to take care of the issue.  Oakland fire officials upset over blazes in city-owned building   This is leadership happy with keeping the status quo and does not have the ability to handle unexpected issues or thinking outside the box to respond in an immediate manner.  They had an opportunity to demonstrate their abilities to respond immediately and help out the firefighters while also protecting citizens of Oakland but they chose not too.  On the other hand, the  leadership at Chobani Launches Second Food Incubator Class with Call for Applications understands that a company doesn’t just exist in the here and now but prepares now so it may exist in the future with better products, service and workers.  Yes, it is easy to get caught up in the day to day activities, but with effort on your part you can see clearly what direction you need to go and how you can get there.  The best way to do this, as said at the beginning of this episode, respect, communication and listening to your workers.  You may have ideas on improvements but so do they and they’re the ones doing the job.

Until June 15th. Never keep quiet about safety for the life you save may be your own.

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