Companies Behaving Badly-The Art of the Pop-In

The art of the Pop In –
One of the most valuable things I learned as an employee through years of observation is that boys will be boys at any age, so when I joined the ranks of management I made sure to implement another concept I learned, the Pop-In.  You may have heard this referred to in other terms like Gemba walk,  Genchi genbutsu,  walk about, safety walk, walk or a stroll.  Whether your warehouse is a multi-shift operation or you oversee several different sites, the pop-in, what ever you want to call it is a great tool to use.
My experience has been that companies are very cavalier about their graveyard shifts.  It’s a time when the workers have free run of the place since 99.9% of management is not on the premise.  No nosey executives poking around, no office people getting in the way, no sales/marketing staff with inane questions about products, usually just one supervisor or manager with maybe a lead and a crew entrusted with millions of dollars in equipment and inventory.  The challenge of keeping everyone focused through the night on the job and not wandering off on tangents is rigorous. 
I perfected my Pop-In technique as a supervisor.  I would constantly show up on the shop floor but always from different entrances and directions.  I would do what ever it was I had to do at my desk for 15-20 minutes and then go for a Pop-In from the office door. Sometimes I’d Pop-In from the break room and sometimes from the dock entrance, not keeping to any set walking routine.  You get to see the whole operation from different points of view which give you the opportunity to see if there are repairs or other things that need to addressed as well as being available to employees for a chance to bend your ear and of course, it keeps everyone on their toes.
When I was hired to manage my first three-shift distribution center the Pop-In became even more critical of a tool.  I always knew what was going on during  day shift since I was always there so several times during the month I would tweak my schedule so I could Pop-In on other shifts.  Sometimes I’d stay over to be with swing shift or come back in the middle and the same on graveyard shift.  Except for my assistant, no one else knew when or where Phil was going to pop-in.  As a DC manager, when you’re always on days you don’t get to bond with other shifts supervisors or their staffs like you do on days. and that can make them feel left out of the loop or worse, that no one cares but you can alter that perception by seeing what they go through on their shift and listening.  When I would pop-in, like any good visitor, I’d never show up empty handed when I did the Pop-In. Sometimes I’d bring dinner, snacks, a safety meeting or an impromptu evacuation drill.
Now I’m going to share a personal Pop-In story that should hopefully demonstrate how important a tool it is.  As with any new job you spend the first few days learning the lay of the land as well as being trotted around in a marathon dog and pony show.  Everyone wants to speak with you and share their opinions and air their grievances on the operation you’ve just inherited.  Your staff good or bad,  your operation dependable or not, the long history and so on and so on.  Most of it you just take in with a smile, an occasional head shake and a thank you.  A few weeks into it as things settled down, the day shift warehouse lead came to me and said, you told us you have an open door policy, can I speak with you?  Of course you can.  He started with, I know I can get fired for going over my supervisor’s head.  He then told me he had pointed out an issue of discrepancies on what graveyard shift said they picked and staged and what was actually being done to the previous DC manager, but he didn’t seem to care about it.  I asked him if he had spoken to his supervisor.  Yes, he was about to stop and suddenly got emotional but he just puts up with it and doesn’t want to rock the boat and I’m tired of watching him work his ass off and not getting the credit for what’s getting done!  I thanked him for his concern and passion, reassured he wasn’t going to get fired and promised that I would get back to him within two weeks.  
After I had finally settled in to my routine for day to day activities I turned my attention to those daily shift reports and alleged discrepancies.  The reports were simple, number of orders completed, number of cases picked, number orders shipped, staffing, equipment issues and any other problems that occurred.  According to the supervisor’s report, graveyard was picking an astronomical numbers of cases and completing orders in record times!  Wow!  I was impressed.  Is there a problem?   However, one thing I also noticed was something that was missing from the report.  There were never any equipment issues noted on graveyard shift but day shift had them almost daily and their reports showed just slightly more cases picked over the course the whole shift.  Now what did our WMS have to say about what was being done?
The numbers told me that graveyard was doing about half of what their reports indicated and that day shift was doing the bulk of the work as well as dealing with repairs and cleaning.  I spoke with my day shift supervisor on how things were going and that’s when I was told that he knew the lead had come to me and that his crew could be even more productive if they didn’t have to spend an hour each morning cleaning up after graveyard which surprised me since per graveyards report they should have had plenty of time to do this.  I kept all this info to myself and knew it was time to do a Pop-In.
They exceeded my expectations.  I entered the building through the offices, since they should have been locked preventing warehouse entry, arriving an hour after the shift had started figuring things should be in full swing and they were.  The first two I ran into was the shift lead and he was half dressed along with a female employee.  I can still remember vividly the expression on their faces.  I had to stifle myself from laughing.  Told them to either go home now or wait for me in the lunchroom.  As they got themselves together I went to the lunchroom and found employees smoking pot, playing cards, reading a newspaper and a whole lot of nothing else.  Morning all.  Why don’t you all wait here until I get back and then entered the warehouse.
The quiet was deafening, well except for the loud boom box, there wasn’t the usual noise of a functioning warehouse.  The first section I came upon was the small package processing and the lead of that area was enjoying greatly whatever he was listening too on his cd player.  As I gave him a few moments to finish his air guitar solo I noticed the naked young woman on his computer screensaver.  It looked very much like the young lady I found with the shift lead in the office.  In fact, it turned out it was.  Finally we made contact with each other and got another priceless expression.  I asked, where’s your shift supervisor?  He stalled, there was a long pause and I began to ask again but was suddenly interrupted by the sound of hoots and hollers and loud screeching as a worker on an electric pallet jack was doing a full speed spin as fast as he could go on the loading dock. He looked at me and shook his head and finally pointed to the shipping office.  I invited the lead to wait for me along with the stunt drivers and others in the lunchroom.  I headed for the office as word must have started to spread that I was here as people began to emerge from the nooks and crannies and the sound of forklifts grew.  The small shipping office had all the shades down and was dark inside as I opened the door.  There was my shift supervisor, soundly asleep in the fetal position on the couch.  Flipped on the lights and before I could say anything, with his back to me he shouted, this better be important!
I responded, oh I think it’s pretty damn important.  He slowly rolled over and saw my happy face.  I remember being thoroughly impressed with the list of excuses that flowed as he defended how it looked in between justification of his actions.  I had enough by the fourth one and simply told him, give me your keys, go home and wait for H.R. to call you. Then I called everyone to the lunchroom so I could face my merry band of workers with a choice.  You can stay and get back to the job you were hired to do and I’ll stay for the remainder of the shift to help or you can go home.  All those I had previously left in the lunchroom had already left the building and the others  did go back to work as each and everyone of them apologized at one point during the rest of the shift
When the HR manager arrived and found me waiting for her, she knew something was up but even she was not prepared for this scenario.  After the HR investigation some workers were terminated, some suspended and or put on probation and everyone else went back to work all having learned a valuable lesson.  The eager and determined day shift lead was promoted and given the graveyard supervisor position and it’s nice having all the numbers line up correctly.  So if you haven’t done it in the past, get up off that butt, grab your 3×5 pad and go pop-in.  The exercise is great, you get your blood to flow faster and you get to see things your WMS will never show you.  
 Thank you for stopping by and taking the time out of your busy day.  Until next month my friends, stay safe and never keep quiet about safety, for the life you save may be your own.

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


And I’m not even talking about hacking of a computer, this is all human error.  Hopefully this article will spur most of you to double check where you’re sending personal information about an injured employee.  Get into the habit of reviewing and updating your phone and fax numbers for medical clinics and the state workers compensation board on a regular basis.

I’m still not sure why or what changed but the fax landline number that I’ve had for 32 years has been receiving for the last seven years full sets of information on employees who have been injured on the job. The last one was this week and now I have Mr Smith’s dob, home address, work address, SSN, his injury and other personal information that if I was dishonest, would also be hurting Mr. Smith financially as well as from his accident if I assumed his identity.  I called the medical office to let them know the information didn’t get to where it was suppose to go but to my home instead.  The clerk was perplexed and asked me again the patient’s name and birthdate.  Still not getting it he told me he needed to check with his office manager.  After being on hold for five minutes I hung up. Hopefully there were able to figure it out with the info I gave them.


To make it worse, The state of California doesn’t seen to care either.  When this happened last August I tried to inform workers comp I was getting personal information.  She thanked me and was ready to hang up when I said, don’t you want to know who sent it and what it was about nor did she ask if I still had the information or destroyed it?

So folks, you’re going to have to take it upon yourselves to make sure this doesn’t happen to you.  FYI, when I do get this info and after reporting it to the sender, I take the time and shred it at no charge to anyone.  You’re welcome. 


WarehouseFlow’s Tip of The Month-AUGUST


This Month’s Tip From WarehouseFlow Advisors-Jun



Companies Behaving Badly-Senseless


Welcome to the latest issue of Companies Behaving Badly.  Let’s begin with a question. Which of your 5 senses are you willing to lose?  Tough choice isn’t it?  What about sight? Would you miss looking at your family, a rose or a sunset?  Not for you, then how about hearing?   Life would be very quiet if you lost that sense.  Hopefully you answered none of them, however if you refuse to wear or don’t know to wear your PPE at work there is always the possibility of losing something you’ve become very accustomed too.  PPE is – Personal Protection Equipment.  


If you work in a area where there is a lot of dust, dirt, ash and other debris is created by machinery and in the air you should be given SAFETY GOOGLES to wear.  That is your PPE that protects your eyes and vision.  They are not forehead protectors or look really cool on top of your head, they are made to protect your eyes only.  You should not ever be charged by the company for a pair of safety googles.  To help get more people to wear their goggles, good companies work with the employees on the styles they purchase, which have become more fashionable the last few years.  If you wear prescription eyeglasses you can have a pair made with shields to the specs needed to protect your eyes.  Some companies help pay for part or all of the expense.  You should check the company policy before making any purchases.

Exposure to loud noise over a period of time will damage your hearing.  If you work in an environment where machinery and the processes create a lot of noise you should at least be wearing EAR PLUGS and if working for long periods of time in high decibel areas you should use EAR MUFFS. Again, ear plugs and muffs are the PPE to protect your hearing and you should never have to pay for this PPE either.

The bottom line on PPE is, whether goggles, ear plugs, gloves, dust masks or hazmat suits, wear it.  Protect your valuable five senses.×

warehouse1Well our good friends at the U.S. Postal Service were in the news again.  You can read it here.  OSHA delivers package of citations to Virginia post office The USPS management continues to stride at setting the bar lower with poor leadership in action and the only agency that makes TSA look like a top notch competent organization.  OSHA was originally called in to the Virginia Processing and Distribution center when employees filed a complaint.  For employees to finally get to the point where they feel the need to call OSHA means that no one in management has listened to them and when management doesn’t listen it means they don’t care about their employees.  OSHA found 4 REPEAT violations at the facility, directed by lazy leadership.  To lazy to enforce the rules and just looked the other way as long as the job got done.  To lazy to have the equipment properly serviced and to lazy to make sure employees records on certification were current if at all. When I’ve been asked what to do when faced with issues like this I usually tell employees to see their union rep or HR person and report it when management doesn’t respond.   What a double whammy here, not only does management not care about your working conditions but neither does your union.  Where is their union is all this?                          OSHA found the following conditions that lead to the violations:

– Allowed employees to operate equipment even though it had not been inspected or examined for defects after each shift

– Permitted employees to operate powered industrial vehicles without use of a seatbelt

– Allowed employees to operate fork trucks in aisles clearly marked for wheeled mail carts, exposing workers to struck-by or caught-between hazards

– Failed to provide employees with training to ensure they were competent to operate the equipment; andLet employees improperly tow wheeled carts using powered pallet jacks.

A competent supervisor would make sure that forklifts and other industrial motorized equipment are inspected and a checklist completed and signed at the beginning of each shift.   Any safety issues should be noted on the checklist so repairs can be made as soon as possible.  I highly recommend using only licensed technicians.  You should also have a procedure in place to red tag vehicles that are not safe to be used and this will ensure they are not used.  Yes, it sucks when you’re down equipment and have a job to do, I know, I’ve been there, you as a supervisor just need to be more creative.  Once you start making excuses to use unsafe equipment that first time, will it ever stop?  Oh yea, it will, when someone gets killed.   Don’t drive anything you haven’t been certified on by your current employer even if you have previously been certified at another company.  You need to know their rules of the road.  Yes, I know some smart asses that have gotten away with driving a forklift without certification and may have hit something but no one saw them but if they were to have an accident and injured or killed themselves or a pedestrian, do you think the company is going to cover their ass?  No they’re not, because their lawyers are going to throw them under the bus.  In almost an instant, everything you worked so very hard for, the house, the vacation fund, your vehicles, your retirement plans, poof, all gone. 


I also can’t stress enough the importance of wearing your seatbelt while operating your forklift.  It helps keep you within the cage and safe.  Just ask this guy, he’ll tell you that as well.

Miracle as forklift truck driver walks out of factory unhurt after being trapped under tons of CHEDDAR CHEESE for nine hours after massive shelving collapse ×


LOTO, Lock Out Tag Out is a critical aspect of workplace safety.  As seen in this article OSHA Finds Safety Failures Allowed Machine to Sever 30-Year-Old Worker’s 3 Fingertips at Nature’s Path Subsidiary in Wisconsin not doing LOTO can cost you a body part or your life.  Would you stick your hand into an alligators open mouth to retrieve a golf ball?  Would you stick a butter knife into a plugged in toaster?  So why would you stick your hand into a piece of machinery not knowing if someone will accidentally turn it back on.  You are not faster then the machine no matter how much you think you have the timing down.  So when you need to make adjustments, clear jams, do maintenance, get up, turn off the power to the machine, put your lock on it so only YOU can turn the power back on.  Make sure to release all energy, bleeding air pressure, hydraulics etc.   Your lock should have a tag with your name on it.  Don’t let anyone intimidate you into not doing LOTO.  Don’t fall for the “you’re not being a team player” speech.  You’re being a safe player.  The agency also found Nature’s Path USA II failed to:


  • Develop confined space entry procedures to issue permits, test atmospheric conditions, monitor and train workers.
  • Power down or lockout equipment to prevent unintentional operation.
  • Conduct periodic inspections of energy-control procedures.
  • Develop procedures to summon rescue and emergency services and train workers on bloodborne pathogen exposure procedures.
  • Install adequate machine guarding.
  • Correct electrical safety violations.
  • Train workers about chemical hazards used in the workplace.
  • Provide information on noise limits and provide proper fitting of, and ensure use of hearing protection.

Machinery now a days is also produced with safety in mind.  They have guards in areas where body parts can meet moving parts to prevent amputations and other serious injuries.  Older machinery that was built before current safety standards, must be retro fitted with guards to protect you from moving parts.  If guards are missing from a machine do not operate it. If you are told the guards are in maintenance for repair and will be back soon, still do not operate the machine.  I’ve had incidents where maintenance had removed machinery guards for various reasons and forgot to replace them at shift end.  I did not allow the machine to operate.  It was swing shift and no big bosses around so I called the head of maintenance at home to informed him a line was down due and why. Three hours later we were up and running.  If I had allowed it to operate and one of my staff was injured by the moving chains I would not have been able to live with the guilt. ×


One of the first lessons I give to new employees and one of the easiest to do is how to evacuate the facility in the event of an emergency.  We cover what each series of horn blasts indicate, where the emergency evacuation route is and location of the assembly area so everyone can be accounted for.  Along with this information they are also reminded that under no circumstances are they to block the emergency route or any emergency exits.  If they find this to be the case they have been deputized and permission to move and clear the area  as need be and then report it immediately to their supervisor.  Apparently some businesses don’t understand the concept and even lock exit doors which is a big NO-NO.


Warehouse’s locked exit route could cost it again, OSHA says This warehouse locked exit doors  If security or product theft is a concern by management, they have other options to deal with that and locking exit doors is not an option.  Don’t keep quiet about it if you find that to be the case.  OSHA: Pier 1 Imports store in Glendale faces $101K in fines for hazards This store’s management team obviously doesn’t care what’s going on in their facility or bother to do any training.  They’re putting employees at risk especially if there was an emergency. ×


Are you ready for HazCom?  No, it’s not a comic book convention but short for Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) and it’s all going live, TODAY!  That’s correct, if you haven’t completed training by today, you are NOT compliant and may be subject to some big fines.  Get it done!  Don’t think it applies to you?  You’d be surprised.  Need help?  Go to the OSHA website for more information or  if you’re in the local bay area contact us. ×


The sad truth is, Construction companies represent 60% of OSHA’s Severe Violators programWhat can be done?  One thing is Never Being Quiet about Safety.  Read the article.  Companies with a poor safety record should not be allowed to bid for city, county, state or federal jobs and have their licenses suspended.×


Nursing Education Consulting Inc.

Warmer weather is upon us and a great time to remind your workers, especially those that operate outdoors, to stay hydrated, wear protective clothing and know the warning signs of heat exhaustion. ×





Always keep an open dialogue on safety between you and your staff and you and upper management.  Don’t treat safety as a dirty word.  After all accidents can hurt production, kill moral and destroy the bottom line.  Don’t throw people onto the floor without proper training or use equipment in need of repair.  It’s your domain, rule it.  As of April 23rd. (the latest numbers available from OSHA), 566 people have died in industrial accidents for fy 2016.







This Month’s Tip From WarehouseFlow Advisors-MAY


Companies Behaving Badly-WHY II


‘Why Is It That the Safety of Those Coal Miners’ Lives Does Not Matter Enough?’ (From the CounterSpin interview with Bruce Stanley on coal-industry crimes by Janine Jackson.)  That happens to be a very good question, why doesn’t it matter enough?  Why is it that the lives of Construction workers doesn’t matter enough to stop deaths from falls and trench cave- ins?  Why is it that the lives of Manufacturing workers doesn’t matter enough to stop workers from being pulled into moving machinery and conveyors and then watch their own limbs ripped off and die?  Why is it that there are such vile individuals, who have so little regard for human life, so they can line their pockets with gold?  The truth is everyone has their line in the sand.  How you treat people and how far you’re willing to go in bending your morals just to get what you want out of life makes for different kinds of people.  Through out time there have been many unscrupulous people through out the existence of man/woman kind and greed is usually the number one motivator.  Whether it’s a single owner or a corporation with a board, the priority of safety and level of awareness comes from the top.  Most companies really do a good job and there are those that do an excellent job which is balanced by those who do a horrible job, on purpose. So how do we deal with these folks, who put their workers in jeopardy. First, never keep quiet about safety.  Don’t assume someone else has spoken up or it’s magically being taken care of.  Say something.  If no one is listening to your concerns call the OSHA Hotline, at 1 (800) 321-6742.  Next, Say NO.  Be polite but be firm. NO. No you’re not going to work on a roof without proper fall protection.  No, you’re not going to do it “just this once”.  You will be told you are not a team player or a trouble maker but the fact is, you have the right to say no to performing an unsafe act that can get your injured or killed.  Well, that unfortunately sounds like yet another episode of Companies Behaving Badly.


OSHA cites contractor at Kanawha site PREVENTABLE – Winesburg Builders thought it was perfectly fine to expose their workers to falls of 22 feet by not providing fall protection while doing roofing and framing work.  For this total disregard for their employees safety. OSHA cited them for 2 Willful, 2 Repeat and 3 Serious violations and a total fine of $122,000.  The sad fact is this company has been cited 22 times for safety violations in a 61/2 year period which demonstrates they have no plans to change their behavior or care if workers die because they’d rather put money in their pockets instead of paying for safety.  You have the right to work in a safe environment. Say NO.

OSHA fines GA contractor $140K for ‘deliberate lack of concern’ for worker safety – PREVENTABLE – Jasper Contractors Inc. also doesn’t believe the expense of safety equipment is necessary as an OSHA inspection found 2 Willful violations for exposing workers to falls on the job site along with a proposed fine of $140,000.  Workers operating nail guns were not wearing eye protection.  Again, like above, this company also has a long history of safety issues with 34 violations in the past.  We need to stop the falls and that may take suspending the licenses of these perpetual offenders for a period of time. 

Pig manure killed Sandusky County worker, OSHA says – PREVENTABLEWhen dealing with liquids of any kind, you should receive training on what you are dealing with, the hazards of contact and related symptoms, what kind of PPE is required and what to do if there’s a spill.  Even if you’re pumping outdoors there are gases that can kill you will minimum contact as Humberto Padua Hernandez, a 32 year old farm worker found out while pumping liquefied pig manure at Vickery farm.  W.E. Soil Enhancement was cited for 3 Serious safety violations in relation to the death.  Unfortunately, the proposed fine is only $16,800 considering  agriculture is among the most dangerous occupations in the U.S.


OSHA fines Breedlove in Lubbock after employee amputation – PREVENTABLE – It always seemed to me that calling attention to yourself always brought more scrutiny and the best way to get OSHA to come by and look is not performing LOTO and having one of your worker’s hands amputated.  Breedlove Foods, didn’t give workers much love as they allowed employees to clean a feed auger while it’s still moving. Hope you’re quick?  OSHA issued 12 Serious violations and a proposed fine of $50,400.  Among the citations, not having an emergency stop on equipment, wet floors and slip hazards, No LOTO program, no guards on machines and blocked electrical panels. 

OSHA fines Middletown company after trench collapse traps worker – PREVENTABLE – Don’t let your employer dig your grave.  That’s what almost happened to a plumber as he was working in a trench that collapsed. OSHA fined Williamson Plumbing and Heating was fined $41,000 for failing to construct the trench properly and not clearing excavated materials at least 2 feet from the trench’s edge.  Again, another area where you should get training on hazards, PPE and conditions before going in.  Otherwise say NO.


OSHA: Iowa Postal Distribution Center Delivering Forklift Hazards – PREVENTABLE – The U.S. Postal Service continues to demonstrate why they lead the world in poor and derelict leadership as OSHA issued 2 REPEAT and 1 Serious safety violations and proposed fines of $88,000 to the Network Distribution Center in Urbandale, Iowa.  Things began when an employee filed a complaint with OSHA last October because they knew the Post Office’s lack of action was dangerous.  OSHA found employees were exposed to crushing and struck-by hazards associated with operating forklifts.  Leadership failed to give appropriate training, instruction, visual observation and other means to forklift operators involved in near miss incidents. The U.S. Postal Service previously was cited for a violation of this occupational safety and health standard at its facility in Federal Way, Wash. The facilities in Iowa and Washington are part of the national system of highly mechanized and automated mail processing with a transportation network dedicated to handling and moving standard mail, periodicals, package services and other mail classes.  Apparently, they don’t communicate with each other.

Cal/OSHA Cites Santa Barbara Employer $72,735 for Violating Stop-Work Order on Scaffold and Unreported Serious Injuries – EASILY PREVENTABLE – Looks like DP Investments thought it worth $72,735 to ignore a stop work order and continued to put it’s workers in harms way.  Not very smart.


OSHA orders $116,000 in fines against Western Sugar after worker’s death – PREVENTABLE – After an employee day died on the job, the following OSHA investigation found 5 SERIOUS and 4 REPEAT safety violations and a proposed fine of $115,900.  There were fall hazards, unguarded floor holes and non-approved for high dust area equipment used.  Read the article and you’ll see why you should never keep quiet about safety.

Scramble to meet work safety Act – NEW ZEALAND – New workplace safety act going like in New Zealand.  Check it out.

Earthmoving company fined $110,000 for work safety breaches – AUSTRALIA – They’re taking safety more seriously here as a large fine was handed down in a worker’s arm amputation. Read the story.

Electric line workers listed among top 10 most dangerous jobs – HOW DANGEROUS IS YOUR JOB? – It’s not as glamorous as the song makes it out.  Electrical line workers are in the top 10 of most dangerous jobs. Read it.

Third death closes Danville’s Goodyear plant until Friday; OSHA investigating – WHAT’S GOING ON? – Read the article. What’s changed at the Goodyear plant.  It is leadership, lack of training? 

That brings this episode of Companies Behaving Badly to a close.  Please feel free to share any or all of these stories at your next tailgate/toolbox safety meeting.  If you’re not having regular tailgate/toolbox meetings, ask why?  Showing an interest in safety make wake management up and get a program going.  Does your company have a safety committee?  Join it.  Your work experience makes you a great addition to any safety committee.  Never keep quiet about safety, the life you save may be your own.  Until next month, take care and stay safe.