Companies Behaving Badly-Don’t AssUMe

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Surprise Quiz!  How many outside vendors and contractors are in your facility right now and what are they doing?  Do they know and understand your “rules of the road”?  Have they been told if food and drink is allowed, where they can eat, where they can take breaks, how and who to contact in an emergency, what PPE they need to where and where they’re not allowed to go?  If you are allowing outsiders to wonder your warehouse, plant, facility without any kind of safety orientation you are just looking for trouble.  Don’t assume (make an Ass of U an Me) that the contractors know and understand the safety policies in your company.  Take the time to cover with the workers themselves, the subtle differences and idiosyncrasies of your facility and understand the consequences that will result if they violate those rules and that will include being banished from the premises.
 As you will see in some of the stories below, very bad things happen when you don’t take the time to give onsite contract workers a safety orientation before working in your facility.  Let’s begin with an experience I had in this matter.  This one particular company had man-lifts through out the facility to move people between floors.  However if you had bulky items, toolboxes or other equipment you had to take the elevator, which took much longer to use since you had to usually wait a while for it.  We had some contractors come in to do repairs on a storage tank.  It was assumed by the powers that be that the workers knew how to use the man-lift and of course, murphy’s law reared it’s ugly head and one of the contract workers wound up falling the equivalent distance of two stories.  He suffered multiple injuries including but not limited to, broken ankles, wrists, arm and shoulder as well as a serious head injury.  The knee jerk reaction by the company, which had to be completed in one day, was that we had to retrain each and everyone of our shift by explaining how to use a man-lift, watching them complete one trip a floor up and one trip back down, then documenting this with signatures of affirmation.  The half hour or so of training given to the contract workers up front  would have avoided the many hours of a day taken away from production for covering asses.
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 Contractor dies in fall from power plant roof – A man died after falling from the roof of the NRG Indian River Power Plant in Dagsboro on Tuesday morning.

Preliminary investigation from Delaware State Police said the incident occurred around 8:11 a.m., Tuesday Jan. 31. Police said a male subject fell from a roof of the power plant on 29416 Power Plant Road and died as a result of the fall.  Was he wearing fall protection gear, was it properly tethered or did he think nah, I don’t need to waste time with all that gear for a quick job?  Make sure they follow your safety rules.

 

The same safety orientation needs to be offered to Temporary workers as well.  The safety of temporary workers is a shared responsibility.  To assume that these workers know how to respond to an emergency, or how to LOTO “that” machine or know how to ride a man-lift is irresponsible.  Don’t assume the agency has given them the necessary safety orientation as well especially those specific items that apply to only your facility.  Give them a chance to succeed and survive.

Safety orientation and training is also critical for your regular employees as this company found out. OSHA cites Marathon Galveston Bay Refinery on training.  The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a citation in January alleging Marathon Petroleum Corp’s Galveston Bay Refinery in Texas City, Texas, failed in 2016 to train workers in changes in the operation of a coking unit.  Really!  They apparently didn’t think it was worth the time and effort to make sure their own employees wouldn’t die if something went wrong, because, after all, what could go wrong?  OSHA also alleges Marathon failed to document training of the workers, according to a second citation.  The first thought that should go through your head whenever you put in a new piece of equipment, modify a piece of equipment, change a procedure or anything that chances the current practice, is the training you need to give before anyone begins operating it.  Your workers deserve to have a chance to survive any emergencies that may occur at work.

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Poor or lack of training is a great indicator of poor leadership which in turn gives you a company behaving badly.  When you begin to look closer beyond the lack of training you’ll see poor housekeeping, expired or damaged inventory, equipment in need of repair but still used at the risk of employee injury.  What’s even more disturbing is when those companies basic business is transporting people to and from their jobs like the Metro in Washington, D.C.  Union: D.C. Metro transit system has long record of putting safety last and BART in the San Francisco bay area, BART hits record low in survey of its riders It’s not enough to worry about safety at work, now you have to worry if you’ll get to work in one piece which brings me to the incident where two railroad maintenance workers were killed on the job when hit by another train.  We all figured it was just poor communication within the Amtrak but it seems to go even deeper and is very troubling.  The autopsies revealed that one maintenance worker was had cocaine in his system and the other tested positive for morphine, codeine and oxycodone.  To add to this mess, the engineer operating the train that hit and killed the workers tested positive for marijuana.  This is also an indication of poor leadership as it seems everyone needs some kind of drug to get through the day.  Read for yourself, Tests: Maintenance Workers Killed By Train Were On Drugs.  

Relatives criticize PG&E for 2010 pipeline blast that killed 8 and Iowa Spill Is The Largest Of Diesel Fuel In US Since 2010  Just two of the many reasons why we DO need regulations.  Also why not ask the over 4,000 humans who died last year in industrial accidents.  We can’t depend on companies self regulating themselves.  Look at PGE.  The asked for a rate increase so they could track and upgrade the buried gas lines in Northern California and instead they gave themselves bonuses with the money and then 8 people were murdered due to their indifference to human life.  You should also read this article as well,  Commentary: Regulation saves lives  by Jim Weygand.

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I’m sure you’re like me and am always looking for new and more interesting ways to train and bring safety to the forefront.  Here’s a great one and I love this. Lorry drivers trained on bikes in bid to cut cycling deaths in London.  Getting employees to see things from another point of view.  Maybe having forklift drivers walk around the warehouse and  working forklifts?  Call it what what you want, thinking outside the box or being a dreamer, anything that helps get the point across with a different twist is fantastic.

That’s it for this episode folks.  Training is the most critical aspect of safety.  You need to know how and what to do so you can go home the same way you arrived.  Thanks for stopping by and please, don’t ever keep quiet about safety, for the life you save may be your own.

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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. 

 

Warehouseflow’s Tip of the Month – November

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Aunt Ida’s Recipes for Disaster – 4

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Thank you for stopping by and checking out this months latest recipe from our Aunt Ida. Exclusively developed in our test kitchen and now available to your business.

THIS MONTHConstruction pancakes.  – I can think of no better way to start the day then with a full stack of these.  Quick and easy to prepare, especially when you become really good at making excuses for not wearing fall protection gear.

total prep time – Almost none, unless of course you decide to put on your harness and inspect that the life lines are properly anchored.  

cook time – Times vary depending on method of baking,  but you should always keep an eye on it when preparing this dish.  Cook time is also affected by the number of trips, slips or falls that occur at the worksite.

yield – Without the use of fall protection gear, you can expect at least 1 fall off a building, flattening that person like a pancake and killing them instantly if they’re lucky, so they don’t have to experience the pain of crushed bones or impalement.

FALLS remain the number one cause of death or injury in the construction industry.  In this day and age of communication and news outlets everyone should be aware that when you are working over 6 feet off the ground you are to be supplied with some form of fall protection,  whether it’s railings, scaffolding with railings, or fall protection PPE.  You can refuse to work under those conditions.  You did not train to be an acrobat in the circus or were hired to be one, so why would you want to work like one without a net?  

 

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This Month’s Tip From WarehouseFlow Advisors-Jul

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Companies Behaving Badly-Bully

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Welcome back to our July 1st issue.  I think we can all agree that there is nothing positive about a bully.  They’re difficult, annoying and disruptive.  They come in all shapes, sizes and colors as well as male or female.  You can find them in the schoolyard, the playground, in politics, across the street and even at work.  Yes, even at work and that’s the bully we’re concerned about here, more specifically the bully known as unsafe bully.  The unsafe bully at work is not easy to identify at first, as their approach is usually subtle however they can be your boss, your manager or a peer.  Like using cheese as bait to catch a mouse you can find the unsafe bully by using L.O.T.O. at your next machine maintenance.  They’ll pop in and explain that to keep production numbers up, it’s fine to cut a few corners.  “Yep, that ‘s how we do things here.”  Then after that time you insist on wearing your fall protection gear following safety protocol the unsafe bully will tell you, a real man doesn’t need to wear that.  Finally one day, after you’ve called maintenance to repair a safety stop sensor and stopped production while waiting because you don’t want to bypass it,  you’re told, “you are not a team player.”  How can we trust you, trouble maker, you’re not making your numbers, why is production down?  

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Because you want to take the time to do it the correct and approved way this absolutely bothers the unsafe bully.  It’s easy to say sticks and stones, but when the bully is a supervisor or manager, they can make your life a real hell by them constantly threatening loss of your job.  Unfortunately that’s what happens in some places and because the family can’t survive if you lose that job, you give in to the bully.  You see cutting corners isn’t so bad after all.  Your numbers are up, the boss invited you for a beer after work, sure you’ve had a few close calls, but those were teaching moments.   You’re feeling pretty good about yourself about now, comfortable, letting your guard down just a little, when you forgot you had disabled the safety stop when you backed into the conveyor and watch in horror as your arm is ripped out of it’s socket.  You feel nothing at first as your body is in shock and then your life flashes as you begin to fade from the loss of blood.  I was able to cut corners a hundred times before, if I had only….

If you find yourself in this scenario I always recommend that if you belong to a union, first speak to your representative about your safety concerns.  If they don’t get back to you or no union, speak to your H.R. person.  If you are being placed by a temporary employment agency, bring your safety concerns to them immediately. If no one is listening and you feel you are being pushed to work in an unsafe manner, call the OSHA Hotline at 1 – 800 – 321 – 6742 and make an anonymous complaint.  The life you safe may be your own.  One other sobering thought.  As of May 14th, 2016, 648 fellow human beings have died this fiscal year in industrial accidents.  That’s 2.85 a day!  I wonder how many were cutting corners because they were told it’s the way we do things here?×

Theresa Ely understands what’s it’s like to be labeled a troublemaker at work.  She had complained about asbestos exposure to her employer, Dearborn Heights School District No. 7.  Like other ignorant businesses they ignored her and punished her for not keeping quiet about safety, by denying her a raise in pay, drastically increased her workload and numerous reprimands.  She stayed firm and has prevailed as OSHA vindicated her complaints. Read the whole story. 

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Many times in your life you will hit a crossroad and you have to look deep inside and decide which path to take.  Do you do it the correct way or do I do it the wrong way?  As the song for the old Baretta television show said, “don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time” which is a good motto but I would also say, are you prepared to suffer the consequences for your actions?×

 

If you don’t feel safe at work you are not alone.  According to a recent report by the National Safety Council, (read more here) 33% of employees surveyed believe safety takes a backseat to productivity at their companies.  When you break the numbers down it gets worse for the construction industry as 69% feel that way!!  When you read on a almost daily basis of workers falling you have to believe perception is real and too many companies still cut corners to save a few bucks and the worker trying to feed and house his family is caught in the middle and usually pays the price with their life.  Insist on the PPE required to do your job safely.×

It’s difficult to recruit workers into the manufacturing, construction and warehousing industries when we keep maiming and killing young workers.  Even with training, the lack of finesse and experience on their part puts them in more danger on the shop floor and a good mentor program will help greatly reduce those dangers.  The youthful exuberance is great but their quick reaction to “do something” can get them killed when they don’t fully understand what they’re dealing with.  Here’s an example Read the whole story, of a young worker, dealing with a jam, no response from maintenance so she took matters into her own hands, trying to do the right thing and she died.  Please, if you don’t know what you are dealing with, please wait.  Document your down time, twiddle your thumbs, have a toolbox safety meeting, while waiting for maintenance to get to your machine.

I really don’t know why grasping the concept of Lock Out Tag Out is so hard for companies to get other then being blinded by greed.  Here are three other recent incidents of where using LOTO would have saved people from pain and suffering at  Wegmans Central Bakeshop  , Soundwich Inc.  and Dynegy Baldwin Energy .  What’s even more troubling is the first two companies are also REPEAT violators of not using LOTO as in one case a worker suffered broken bones, the other had a finger surgically amputated and the third lost 4 fingers.  Machines are inanimate objects.  Even if we give them nick names and beg them just to finish working without a problem on your shift, they have no central nervous system, no limbs or digits to operate and no brain for thought yet they seem to keep winning the battle when we don’t use LOTO ×

Worth repeating – is’t HOT.  Make sure your workers are staying hydrated and properly dressed to protect them from the sun.  Know the signs of Heat Exhaustion.

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Keep the discussion on safety on going, at tailgate/toolbox meetings, monthly safety meetings and safety committee activity.  Safety does not work without YOU.

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Companies Behaving Badly-Senseless too

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Welcome.  Continuing on this months theme of protecting our 5 senses, most of you agreed that you’d rather not lose any, which is a good thing and a great reason to consistently wear the proper Personal Protective Equipment on the job.  So now, lets concentrate on protecting the other senses and parts of the body.  

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Earlier this month we had discussed that in areas where a lot of dust, dirt and other debris is created by the manufacturing process you should wear safety goggles to protect your eyes but to protect your lungs in the same type of environment you should at least be given a dust mask to wear to avoid breathing those particles into your lungs.  Unlike some injuries you may incur where you know your injured immediately like a cut to the skin or a broken bone, toxins like asbestos, silica or diacetyl in your lungs may take years to develop into something serious and life threatening.  Please don’t think for one minute that because you feel no ill effects now from working in that type of environment while not wearing PPE you are going to be fine.  

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If you are working for extended periods of time in a toxic dust filled area or with chemicals and paints, you should be given a respirator to wear to protect your lungs and in those cases of working with extremely dangerous acids, chemicals and solvents, a hazmat suit with an external oxygen supply should be required.  As with safety goggles and ear plugs, all of these PPE should be provided by your employer at NO EXPENSE to you.

 

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Work gloves  come in several varieties to protect your hands and should be used accordingly with the type of job you are performing.  Simple latex gloves protect your hands from contaminating the item you are producing like food products and from contaminates touching your skin and entering your body.  As we get into heavier more industrial operations using knives or other sharp equipment the latest line of Kevlar gloves are excellent for protecting you from puncturing or amputating parts of your hand. They work so well I use a pair when shucking oysters for the family.  It’s nice to have the confidence if I slipped I won’t need to go to the E.R.  If you are working with chemicals, acids and other solvents, rubber gloves will protect you from severe irritation or burns that can be caused by working with these items.  Again, most employers won’t charge you for this PPE but in some cases, due to cost, they may issue only one pair of kevlar or rubber gloves per year and if you lose them, may have to pay for additional pairs.

 

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The same goes for work boots.  When I began my career working in warehouses I had to buy a pair of steel toed work boots.  Even though the company gave me money towards them, it didn’t cover the full price I had to lay out and of course I complained to myself about it until one day I got too close when a pallet of machinery parts was lowered to the floor and landed on my right foot toes. I was not injured thanks to the boots and I was forever grateful they did the job.  Depending on the environment you work in, you may have to wear special rubber boots instead to protect your feet from liquids, acids and other dangerous chemicals.  The styling today is much better then they were years ago and most companies will let you buy the style and pair you want as long as you follow their guidelines and get the protection you need for the job and most companies have a partial or total refund policy to get you to buy a new pair annually.  Take advantage of it and keep those toes in tact. 

Remember, having to wear PPE is not meant to torture you or make you look like a fashion disaster, they are there to help keep your senses in top condition while you get your job done.  Choosing not to wear them while on the job is just going to help speed up your dying.  Why would you want to spend one minute longer dead then you have too?  Wear it! If you have questions about PPE and are not getting answers at work, you can check out the OSHA.gov website for answers.×

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In the June 1st edition, we had an article about the U.S. Postal Services’ Virginia processing center and violations that were found by OSHA after several employee complaints.  Well guess what boys and girls, now a Des Moines, Iowa facility of the USPS was cited and fined $119,900 for repeated, yes repeated safety violations that exposed employees to hazards. Read-A federal workplace safety report says a Des Moines postal service facility has been cited and fined.  The lack of leadership by the facilities lazy management exposed workers to slips, falls and trip hazards in the designated walking pathways in addition to emergency exit routes and doors that were inaccessible due to carts and parcels blocking them.  A very important mechanical fire door was found inoperable and workers were not trained on emergency action plans.  For a semi federal agency this is horrible especially when you consider that the USPS must be unaware of the 146 workers who died in a garment factory fire over 100 years ago because they couldn’t get out of the building due to locked emergency exits.  It’s also disturbing that their union doesn’t seem to care about their lives either but I’m sure they’re collecting dues on a regular basis.  As a supervisor or manager YOU are responsible for the safety of your employees and no matter what culture exists, safety is a priority or safety is not, you can still make a difference in your area of responsibility.  It’s your realm, your turf, your hood. Keep all emergency routes and exits free and clear of obstacles and train your workers how to survive a disaster.  Enforce those rules and explain to your employees why it’s in their best interest to keep aisles clear and exit doors clear.  As an employee, YOU are just as responsible as management is for your safety.  Don’t play the game of well, no one else cares.  If management doesn’t listen, if the union doesn’t care, do as others have done before you and call the OSHA Hotline –1-800-321-6742 (OSHA).  You don’t have to work under those conditions.×

Would you know what to do in an emergency?  You have merely seconds to respond to an event that can overcome and kill you but if you had only known that, that one switch or valve in the correct position could have saved you and your fellow workers.  OR worse. How can it be worse you say?  You do get to that switch or valve in time only to find out no one has tested it in 10-20 years and it doesn’t work.  It’s happened.  You can read about a Firm fined for ammonia offenses.  They had a release of ammonia refrigerant but were unprepared to respond to the incident and this time no one died but in previous incidents employees have been sent to the hospital.  The company lacked a through emergency response plan and also the training of workers in how to implement the plan along with no proper PPE to survive the emergency.  

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Your social success

A few years ago there was a terrible incident at a DuPont plant in Texas where workers weren’t prepared properly and their backup emergency equipment did fail and four workers died.  Saying you have a plan means absolutely nothing if you can’t back it up with training, drills and equipment maintenance.  Train workers how to respond, what to do, where to go.  Then have drills so you can see if they do know what to do.  Listen to their feedback. Have PPE on hand and have it checked regularly to ensure it’s fully operational. The same goes for vent fans, valves, shut off switches.  Anything that can go wrong and then what to do if it does go wrong.  Seconds count and training and drills gives workers the chance to survive.  This is something you can accomplish in your little realm with your staff.  I’ve done it and yes it took a little more time and effort on my part but when IT happens and one day it may, it’s a very proud moment when you see your staff respond and deal with the emergency.×

There are no excuses acceptable when it comes to safety at your workplace.  When you begin doing that, you’ll soon find it too easy to justify putting off repairs, doing training, maintenance on equipment, wearing PPE.  We’ll do it tomorrow, it can wait another day, what could happen?  Then tomorrow never comes.  Keep the dialogue on safety going, from the top to the bottom and back.  Get involved with your safety committee.  If you don’t have one, start one.  Discuss it with your supervisor, union rep, H.R. person and get the discussion going.  Until July 1st.  Remember, the life you save by speaking up, may be your own. 

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