Companies Behaving Badly-The Art of the Pop-In

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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. 
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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.
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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?
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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!
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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.  
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 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.
 
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RBMB-Exceeded Limitations

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We all deal with limitations of one sort or another and at times we have depended on machinery of some type to help us compensate for those limitations.  However, we tend to become enamored by their speed and strength and forget that those pieces of industrial powered machinery have limits themselves as we take them for granted and push them beyond the tasks they’ve been designed for.  That means it falls upon us humans to protect the machinery and make sure they don’t exceed their capabilities so they can keep us safe at the same time.

It really burns my butt that workers are being injured and killed due to mis-information or lack of communication on what task their machine can do safely or the weight capacities of equipment.  By following the steps below, you can protect yourself, prevent accidents or serious injuries at work if YOU know what to look for when it comes to equipment limitations .

Step 1 – Certification:  When you were hired and your job involves the operating of any kind of industrial powered trucks/equipment you should have first received a general safety orientation and then been trained and certified by the company to operate that piece of equipment.  If you were certified on a powered pallet jack and you need to operate a forklift, you need to be certified again for the operation of that forklift as well.  

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Step 2 – Data Plate:  During the certification process you were introduced to the “data plate”.  This plate is very important since it’s an I.D. the manufacturer has put together to tell you how much weight you can move safely in the facility without having to worry about tip over.  It will also come in handy and help you for those times you may have to operate a different type of forklift.  The weight you can move with a diesel powered forklift is more then an electric and you would learn this by reading the data plate.  In fact, the data plate is so important that it is a OSHA violation to operate any powered vehicle without a date plate.  So if your industrial powered truck is missing the plate, immediately inform your supervisor via the daily checklist and verbally.  

Step 3 – Seatbelt:  Always wear a seatbelt when operating your forklift.  The manufacturer has designed your forklift to protect you within it’s cage, so if you do unfortunately experience a tip over, the seat belt will keep you within that cage and safe so you don’t wind up under a 8,000 pound forklift.

Step 4 – Modifications to any piece of equipment should be approved and done by the manufacturer of the equipment only!  They know how to safely add any modifications so the equipment will continue to operate properly.  As soon as the modifications are completed it is critical to have retraining of operators so they know how the modifications affect operation.

Step 5 – New Equipment:  When ever you get any new piece of equipment, before anyone is allowed to touch it, training needs to be given.  Why?  Where is the emergency shut off, what are the weight limitations, are there exposed moving parts?  I always reccommend that the manufacturers representative do the initial training to management and staff so questions can be asked by all on the equipment and then later you can develop your own training for in-house use.  

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Step 6 – Quick huddle:  When you find that your crew has to operate equipment that hasn’t been used in a while, like seasonal equipment such as a snow plow or large industrial vehicles like a boom lift, take the few minutes and have a quick huddle to go over and remind everyone on proper operation, it’s limitations and any safety reminders related to operation of the equipment.  Those few minutes taken to explain and remind can avoid hours of accident investigation and/or a trip to the E.R.

Don’t let anyone ever push you to operate equipment beyond it capabilities, limitations and safety limits.  Don’t let anyone ever push you to operate equipment in need of repair and unsafe to operate even if it’s “only this once”.  If it doesn’t sound right to you, ask questions and if you don’t get answers and still being bullied to do the wrong thing, call the OSHA hotline at 1-800-321-6742 (OSHA).  Never keep quiet about safety, for the life you save may be your own.

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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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Companies Behaving Badly-Execution of Excuses

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“In the military, as in any organization, giving the order might be the easiest part. Execution is the real game.” – Russel Honore

Happy New Year and welcome back to the first episode of 2017.  You know, you can have all the laws in the world on the books, you can have well written procedures laminated and posted all over the office, you can have a fantastic game plan drawn out and ready for game day but it all means nothing if you can’t EXECUTE it.  We’ve seen this a lot in 2016 especially in our cities, in mass transit and on the job, where laws and rules are clearly spelled out but no one bothers to enforce them or follow up and when things go south, then comes the litany of excuses, WHY!   We didn’t have the budget, we didn’t have the man power, we didn’t follow up soon enough, we need tougher laws but you don’t hear-we didn’t execute our job.  Unfortunately this trend is going to continue and probably get worse while you Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public will be the collateral damage to all of this. People will continue to die due to poor execution of duties and the excuses will continue to flow.  How much more are you willing to put up with, how many lives before you say enough?  Will it take the death of a loved one? 

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I’m sure you’ve all heard about the horrific warehouse fire in Oakland, California that killed 36 and the initial knee jerk reaction was, we need to make new laws but if the current laws, rules, regulations had been executed in the first place, the fire and deaths may never have happened.  Your supervisor sees a worker on the job not wearing their PPE and they give you an excuse as to why not, they forgot, they left it in their locker or the dog ate it, you know the answer is bull shit but you want to be a nice guy, so this time you let it slide.  Well now the next guy or gal does it and don’t you have to let it slide again or you’re perceived as discriminating, picking and choosing who to protect?  You need to protect them all!!  Then later in the week, month or year when that worker is injured because you wanted to be a nice guy, who do you think is going to get tossed to the wolves by their lawyer?  YOU, Mr. Nice guy.  Now you know why Nice guys finish last.

As you will see in the stories below, without proper execution, people can get hurt and die so keep your employees and customers safe by executing the plan, uniformly enforcing safety procedures, policies, laws and rules then you don’t have to waste time making up excuses.  

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First the bad news.  Workplace Fatalities Up Slightly Last Year – 4,836 human beings died in 2015 in industrial related accidents.  That’s moms and dads, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters.  Loved ones who were missed this holiday season.  This is the largest number since 2008 as fabricated metal product manufacturing as well as building and grounds cleaning and maintenance deaths jumped up the most.  That’s a clue people, we’re not executing properly!  NEVER KEEP QUIET ABOUT SAFETY.

Families of 2 Oakland warehouse fire victims file 1st lawsuits – So it begins.  The first lawsuits resulting from the Oakland warehouse fire are on the books.  The warehouse owner as well as the main renter and the city are on the hook and this is only the beginning.  More lawsuits to follow along with trials, editorials and hell of a lot of finger pointing.  Is it worth all this just to be a nice guy?  Who are you really helping with offering people space to live and work when you have overloaded outlets, over crowding, poor heating and ventilation and NO emergency exits?  Sure you feel good about yourself when you see their smiling faces while they paint and sculpt but how do you feel when you see their charred bodies burned beyond recognition?  Still worth it?  Enforce the current laws and stop making excuses as to why you can’t.  There is always a solution if you want to find it.

Rules are in black and white but enforcement of the rules has to have some common sense. Viral video sparks Indiana OSHA investigation – When I interview potential employees, I hire workers who can size up a situation, think for themselves and make adjustments accordingly and not quote why they can’t.  When it comes to safety you want to follow the rules but sometimes that is not enough as some rules are written by people who sit behind a desk all day and have never done the job or task themselves.  You want your workers to have the freedom to do what is required and then some if needed as in this situation.  Instead of thinking this may not be safe enough, the Comcast employee said he was following standard procedure: at least one cone for every ten miles per hour in the speed limit.  Workers like this will get someone else killed by their lack of awareness.  Based on my dealings with Comcast customer service, this incident didn’t surprise me as I find Comcast doesn’t do enough training of their employees and their hiring process needs to be vastly improved to weed out the morons.  If you find yourself in this situation, call your supervisor and tell them what’s going on so the procedures can get fixed before someone dies and leads to lawsuits and bad press.  

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WA mining company fined for workplace safety breach – Here is another company that poorly executed and almost killed several workers because of it.  Their excuse was, the company was aware of the need to carry out regular inspections and repairs of the tanks, but they failed to carry it out!  They knew it but didn’t bother to do it, how stupid is that?How long do you think Coach Belichick would put up with a lineman who kept missing his blocking assignments and caused Brady to be injured and out of the game?  People this is easy.  You make a schedule of inspections, you execute that schedule without excuses and on days it gets missed due to unforeseen circumstances you make sure it’s resumed the next day and not forgotten.  Leadership has a big role in this as well.  If you know that management isn’t following up to make sure it’s happening, you won’t rush to do it. 

Ever wonder why it’s so hard to recruit workers for manufacturing?  This may enlighten you.  OSHA cites Wisconsin factory for safety failures after teen worker dies from injuries – A 17 year old boy, on the job for only 2 weeks died because his idiot employer couldn’t be bothered to train this young man how to execute proper L.O.T.O.  Would you put a soldier on the battlefield without weeks of basic training?  Do you think other 17 year olds believe this is a great way to make a living?  This young man could have developed into a fantastic employee and who knows what he would have contributed to make the company great but they thought it would be better suited for themselves just to kill him now.  You can’t execute a job without training and you can’t have a career without safety. If you are new to a company and don’t receive any safety training for your job call the OSHA hotline and make an anonymous complaint – 1-800-321-6742.  You life is more important then your bosses profit margin.

Kerry Inc. Cited After 2 Workers Suffer Severe Injuries At Bread Factory – Another failure to execute proper L.O.T.O and now two workers have amputations.  Well, LOTO can slow down the production line and hey, we can’t have someone wanting for a loaf of bread. When something goes wrong, that is an indication you may need to review your procedures but many bosses are just too lazy to do that.  It’s tough as it means more work, reviewing the job, rewriting procedures, retraining workers and follow up.  Very tough, NOT!  If you don’t care enough to protect your workers maybe you are more suited to be a grave digger.  How can you mess that up, they’re already dead!

This employee knew it wasn’t right and called OSHA.  Michigan auto supplier tops $400K in fines after state safety inspections – My guess is the issues were brought up to management and they either totally ignored him or just told him to shut up but he did the right thing and called and they found 19 violations!  This company didn’t execute a safety plan just tried to execute workers.  Again, never keep quiet about safety.

If you are not sure about a safety procedure, or you feel you didn’t get the proper training or you want to know what a safety hazard is begin with your union representative and ask, unless you work for the US Postal Service, who’s union has forsaken it’s workers, in that case you are SOL.  You can also speak with your supervisor, manager or Human Resources representative.  If your company has a safety committee you can bring issues to their attention and become part of the group.  If your company doesn’t have a safety committee, ask and maybe you can begin one.  However, if you don’t get answers, or you are bullied or threatened into unsafe acts at work then it’s time to put your safety into your own hands and call the OSHA hotline at 1-800-321-6742 (OSHA).  Never keep quiet about safety for the life you save may be your own.

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Companies Behaving Badly-YEAR END

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

Hope you appreciate my top 5.  Now lets finish the year looking at other disturbing trends from 2016 that’ll continue into 2017.

The continued lack of leadership that prevails at the US Postal Service.  Blood incidents prompt OSHA to fine Brooklyn Postal Service location $342,000 – How stupid is the leadership?  Pretty damn stupid and the workers know it since they filed a complaint with OSHA that found 2 WILLFUL and 3 REPEAT violations.  3 Repeat!!!  Which means they never bothered to fix the problem of not having written instructions or training for workers responsible for handling and cleaning up biohazard packages that are stained or leaking. Managers also did not offer hepatitis B vaccines to affected employees.  It’s a wonder that your junk mail even gets to you!  I predict you’ll be reading more stories of violations at the USPS next year since management has proven it’s incapable of finding it’s own way out of a paper bag.

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Continued lapses of safety on our railroads and ignoring the fixes needed for infrastructure to ensure protection of civilian lives. N.J. Transit Safety Jobs Vacant as Christie Allies Hired at Top – Some politicians, actually only the clueless ones bent on personal power think the way to fix a problem is to hire their friends to top management positions or by making new and “better” laws when all that is needed is to fill the open positions with employees who do the job at hand and not brown nose their way through.  While accidents continue on one of the worst transit systems in the world the Governor thinks it’s better not to fill the safety positions since they’ll ask for money to fix it while his buddies will keep the status quo and let constituents continue to die.  I guess the transit system isn’t as easy to take care of as the George Washington bridge.   Look for continued lack of a plan and leadership into the next year and beyond.

Continue to poison ourselves, our water supply and the environment because we are too cavalier on chemical safety.  New Martinsville chemical plant cited for workplace-safety violations – We need chemicals for food production, building materials, cars, planes, homes and just about anything you can think of but why are we so sloppy and careless about handling it?  Could it be that it maybe takes 20 years for the exposure to show up as a health problem?  Could it be that we truly believe the planet can handle all those chemicals in the air, land, streams, rivers and oceans to dilute and render them to harmless?  Could it be that chemical companies find it a needless expense to make all the needed safety measures and training to prevent chemical injury and death?  Either way, YOU as a employer, whether a supermarket or chemical plant are responsible to train your workers on what they are working with, it’s potential hazards, the proper PPE needed and how to handle in a spill or other emergency.  However I predict this also will continue to be ignored since we never learned anything after the 1984 Bhopal, India gas leak that killed 4,000 humans immediately and residual effects claiming a total of 15,000 human lives!!!  If you think it can’t happen here, you’re just in denial or brain dead.  

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Continued deaths of civilians due to budget cuts and lack of leadership at all major and small cities. Operator accused of ignoring safety in deadly Oakland warehouse fire and Fire Chief: We were not aware what was going on in Ghost Ship – What happened in Oakland, California at the Ghost Ship Warehouse is just the canary in the mine warning f0r all cities.  Due to the competition by city departments for that little slice of the budget pie, things are not getting done and the leadership instead of thinking outside the box and developing solutions to working with what they have are just crying about it and doing NOTHING!  Between all the departments within the city, Ghost ship slipped through the cracks and now people are dead.  The mayor of Oakland at one point stated we need better laws but this is just rhetoric since all you had to do was enforce the current laws and better leadership developing communication between the departments instead of every man or woman for themselves.  If you think this can’t happen in your town, then think again.  When you city is more hell bent on saving the baseball team or football team from leaving, the safety of it’s citizens is a moot point.  Time to wake up Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and Vallejo.  Sure there’s a knee jerk reaction happening now and everyone is aware but over time this will fade, things won’t get done and we’ll all be horrified again when it happens again.

That does it for now.  I greatly appreciate your support over the year and wish you all a Happy Hanukkah and a very Merry Christmas.  After the interesting year we’ve had it’s nice to see the show of solidarity by Hanukkah and Christmas as they begin back to back. As you visit family and friends remember to please not drink and drive or drive distracted. Be your own fire marshall and safety inspector to protect your home and family from fire, accidents or visits to the ER.  If you’re into making resolutions for the new year, resolve to be a better person to you fellow human beings, treat them with respect, be polite and especially be kind to those less fortunate then you.  There is a lot of love out there and we can obliterate the hate with it.  Until next year, never keep quiet about safety for the life you save may be your own.

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Companies Behaving Badly-FIRE!

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Hello all, welcome back and hope you had a nice Thanksgiving.  Each of us have a few words that we respond with an instant reaction of fear and a jolt of adrenalin.  They can be as simple as  “Our next shipment of tickling Elmos is after Christmas”, “That was the last of the wrapping paper” to “I’m late” or “wifi is down”!   The word “FIRE” is another great example of one of those inspirational words that when shouted, creates a flight or fight response in individuals.  For those who have had all that training and drills, it all comes to mind and kicks in, (which really feels good when it does) as you immediately begin to size up the situation and proceed with the next steps you need to take to deal with the fire. Others may just take FLIGHT!  

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Now I don’t want you to think there is any thing wrong with taking flight and evacuating upon the outbreak of a fire, it is the correct thing to do in an emergency.  The problem arises when those emergency routes are blocked with boxes of merchandise, equipment and junk made only worse by arriving at a locked emergency exit door.  Imagine the fear and desperation a person experiences when the building is burning and the only way out is locked shut with chains and padlocks.  If you’re lucky, you’ll pass out from the smoke and heat be dead before the flames get to you.  Terrible, isn’t it?  Yet as you will see in the stories below, there are companies out there that seem to have no problem placing their workers and customers in that worst case scenario.  Like they tell you on an airplane, where ever you work, know where the emergency routes and exits are and you should always plan on at least two ways out.  Just in case on of them is blocked by the fire and they should always be clear.  It’s an emergency route not an obstacle course.  

10 Retailers You Should Think Twice About Buying From on Black Friday – Why not patronage a business based on how it treats it’s employees and safety violations.  We’re all horrified when we hear about the working conditions in Asia and other parts of the world, why not our own backyard.  It’s also not just these retailers, General Dollar stores or the U.S. Postal Service that have blocked emergency exits.  I was recently in a local, Bath Bed Beyond and the aisles throughout the store were choked with boxes and carts of merchandise.  If an evacuation was needed, people would have been injured trying to get out pushing through the blockade.   I understand that the holiday season is an important economic event for retailers and you want to push as much product as possible on the floor because you need those numbers and the morons at corporate just don’t want to understand your situation but still send more.  Will all that matter in a courtroom when you’re on trial because one or more people died trying to escape you store during a fire?  No it won’t and corporate will just pay a fine and you’ll be thrown under the bus.  Customers!  When you see this situation, say something to the manager, don’t keep quiet about safety.

Evacuation routes on a grander scale.  Houston Area Jeopardized By Outdated Chemical Transportation Routes – I must confess that I am no longer surprised by the level of incompetence of the leadership operating our cities and states.  The ideas of continually putting things off, like it’ll just go away on its own, and not blow up until I’m retired and then can be righteous and say, “told you so”.   As we have no control over these clowns in the cities we do at our workplace.  Don’t wait until something happens to make changes to procedures, be proactive and review your operation annually.  What’s changed in the last year?  Equipment, new chemicals, storage?  Do the evacuation routes still make sense?  This is also why I firmly believe in THE WALK.  When you walk your facility or warehouse you’ll notice these changes and can correct accordingly.  In fact, if you have a safety committee, members can take turns doing a monthly walk through.  Don’t wait until it’s too late.  

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AP: Too quiet on the set; filming accidents often go untold – It’s always interesting to see how groups that share an interest always want to keep things quiet and operate in their own vacuum.  Making movies with lots of stunts and under intolerable conditions, accidents are going to happen but the movie industry is not above health and safety laws and people should no longer keep quiet about safety.  The movie company that produced Star Wars-The Force Awakens was fined in the UK for the accident that broke Harrison Ford’s leg.  In Georgia a camera assistant was killed on location on a train trestle because no one bothered to notify the railroad or check the train schedule.  Don’t let anyone ever tell you to keep quiet about safety or to look the other way.  There is no code to protect except life.

NJ Cleaning Products Manufacturer Exposed Workers To Chem. Hazards – A chemical company that has improperly labeled drums of chemicals being moved by untrained forklift drivers.  What could go wrong?  Luckily an employee realized that and complained to OSHA and during the investigation, the agency found the company: failed to properly label hazardous chemicals; lacked forklift training and maintenance; exposed employees to electrical hazards; lacked guardrails on an open-sided platform six feet above ground level; failed to implement a lock out/tag out system to prevent inadvertent machine start-up and provide employee training; didn’t develop and implement a respiratory protection program, including medical evaluation and employee training for employees required to use respirators; and failed to address exposure to confined space.  Sounds like one big accident waiting to happen.  You have the right to know what chemicals you are working with, the PPE required for safe handling, the effects it can have on you and how to respond to a spill.  Talk about FIRE!

This gem is from a friend, Kyle Thill of Toyota Equipment.com and if you’re in any industry that uses forklifts or other industrial powered vehicles you should be following him on twitter – @ToyotaEquipment   Is Bulldozing a Violation of OSHA Federal Law?   This is great info so you can stop this practice in your facility.  It’s something I never allowed as all to often something gets damaged and even more often it becomes a competition and then someone get hurt.  

That’s all for now folks.  Keeping a workplace safe is not an easy task, but when you get the message out there and hold people accountable it’ll become word.  Listen to your employees, don’t be afraid to make change for the better as long as it’s not for the sake of change.  Never keep quiet about safety for the life you save may be your own.  As you prepare for the upcoming holidays please also don’t forget to take safety home as your home can easily become a house of horrors.

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Companies Behaving Badly-Communication

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Hello and welcome back.  There are several critical elements that comprise workplace safety.  As water exists thanks to a very successful bonding between the elements hydrogen and oxygen so does training, PPE, drills and communication, make strong bonds for great safety.  Training and PPE are the introduction to safety for most workers and a indication of how serious the company is on safety.  Drills are done on a periodic basis to help reinforce the training and keep workers on their toes.  However, communication also creates a strong bond in the safety compound since it is used every minute of every day, work and home.

You would think that in this day and age, communication would be so easy to do with so   many means to choose from, smoke signals, semaphore, morse code, email, texting, cell phones and of course good old fashion, verbal.  We communicate at the beginning of each shift with a quick huddle for a size-up of the day to come with the staff and plans of attack on the challenges facing your crew and a reminder on the best way to safely approach and complete.  Unloading unusually sized items, wet floors on rainy days, excavating a trench or staying hydrated on hot days, all good reminders before work begins.  We communicate when equipment is not operating properly and red tag it out of service until repairs can be made. We communicate possible hazards before anyone begins to weld or enters a confined space.  We also communicate what chemicals are being used on site through safety data sheets and symbols so firefighters know how to safely deal with fires and emergencies. As you’ll see in the stories below, lack of communication can lead to serious accidents and death which is sad as only a few simple words could have had a totally different out come.

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SD Worker Suffers Fatal Burns When Ethanol Ignites During Expansion Project   – The employer of a worker, Bilfinger-Westcon didn’t bother to communicate with him that the area where welding would occur wasn’t free and clear of hazards. The refinery, Sioux River Ethanol LLC, that hired them for contract work didn’t bother to communicate that ethanol and flammable liquid was still present in the pipe to be worked on.  Because of this breakdown in communication a 38 year old pipefitter of Bilfinger-Westcon suddenly found himself covered in 190 proof ethanol when he opened the pipe and before he could do anything else, it was ignited by the near by welding, making him a human torch.  He agonized in pain from the burns for a day before succumbing to his injuries.  If a few minutes of communication had taken place between all three parties before work began this whole incident could have been avoided.  Ignorance is not bliss and you should ask questions before beginning work like this in any location.  Don’t assume your boss or the company that hired you has taken all the precautions for your safety.

Transit Worker Fatally Struck by Subway Train in Brooklyn – Again, a simple pre-shift huddle, to communicate potential hazards could have helped save this workers life. Three workers were on the southbound tracks near the Fort Hamilton Parkway station to set up warning lights for a construction zone when a G train hit two of the workers as the train was traveling around a curve. One of the workers, Louis Gray, 53, of Brooklyn, was pronounced dead at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn while the other employee, Jeffrey Fleming, 49, was injured and taken to New York Methodist Hospital, where he was listed in serious but stable condition.  All the train engineers on that route should have been communicated to and alerted that there were people on the track in that area.  Horns should have been sounded by the oncoming trains at the beginning of the area and slowed down to a crawl.  A very similar accident happened on BART in the San Francisco bay area when trains were not alerted to maintenance workers on the tracks.  This type of accident can be avoided when all parties are on the same page and simple communication can help.

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Aer Lingus faces charges over man who died at Dublin Airport warehouse in 2014 – Have you successfully communicated the rules of the road at your facility?  Do drivers delivering or picking up know how to properly enter your facility and where to wait until their truck is ready to move?  It is extremely important to control the flow of traffic on your loading dock and keeping people not familiar with your facility out of harms way.  Unfortunately, Aer Lingus didn’t and is charged with failing to ensure so far as reasonably practicable that individuals who were not employees were not exposed to risks to their safety, health or welfare at a cargo warehouse at Dublin Airport. They regularly permitted or required drivers to access the building via the loading bay itself.  I can’t tell you how many times I found drivers doing this even though at our warehouses we had several doors they could come through.  Even with broadcasting our rules of the road, via fax, emails and written procedures handed to drivers it still got to the point that we banned a few drivers from our facility that just wouldn’t follow procedures.   Which in this age of litigation is something you must do to protect yourself, your workers and your company.  Communicate your expectations and then enforce them or no one, including your employees will never take them seriously and you can avoid a senseless death.

FOX10 Investigates: Warehouse fire posed problems for firefighters – Knowing what chemicals and flammables you’re storing in your warehouse and communicating that information to others, especially firefighters is critical for the survival of all.  As we have seen all to often in warehouse fires, there are no signs, placards or other information for firefighters so they know how dangerous the situation can be and most importantly, HOW to fight a fire.  Depending what is fueling the fire makes a big difference on how the fire is attacked.  If you have alkali metals burning in your facility, you don’t want to poor water on it as the results would be fatal to a firefighter.  When firefighters arrived at Mike Hoffman’s Equipment Services they found an extremely powerful fire, due to the flammable liquids like oil, hydraulic fuel, acetylene, gasoline and diesel fuel stored inside the building. “When we arrived on scene, we had heavy fire, they tried to make an entry, but because of the amount of fire that was there, the decision was made to back out, and take an exterior attack on it.” Make sure you’re using the new Hazard communication procedures by OSHA and SDS sheets to ensure everyone remains safe in your facility by knowing what to do in an emergency.

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Construction industry death: Whistleblower speaks out over safety fears at fatal fall site – Marianka Heumann, a German national backpacking her way through Australia was killed as she plummeted 13 floors through a open shaft because NO ONE thought it was important enough to communicate the dangers.  Four other people died on Australian construction sites during the month of October, raising questions about workplace safety nationally and the level of training employees are receiving.  Just because you know there is a hazard somewhere doesn’t mean the average person knows especially when you toss in being distracted by their smart phones.  Signs, cones, flags, barriers all indicate, HEY LOOK!  

Multiple Safety Issues Found At Plant Which Supplies Major Auto Brands – Workers  began communicating multiple complaints of unsafe working conditions at the Fuyao Glass America Inc.facility. Since the company is apparently deaf this lead to 8 separate federal inspections and $226,937 in proposed penalties for the automotive glass supplier to plant brands such as Audi, Cadillac, Land Rover, Volvo and Volkswagen.  The employees knew what they were talking about as OSHA found 23 serious safety violations from multiple machine safety violations which expose workers to amputation and other serious injuries, as well as a lack of personal protective equipment, electrical hazards, failing to train workers about hazardous chemicals in use and unmarked exits.  As you can see, NO communication to it’s valuable employees.  When you begin a new job and there is no training or communication about safety, then make sure your life insurance is paid up if you intend on staying there or speak up as these employees did.  Never keep quiet about safety.

As you can see, communication is a critical part of safety.  Even with all the training, drills and PPE without the exchange of information people’s lives hang in the balance.  If you’re not doing it already, begin each shift with a quick huddle.  Go over the scheduled days activities and make sure everyone is on the same page, for the life you save may be your own.  Until next month, stay safe.

 

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