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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Companies Behaving Badly-Dust in the Wind

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Welcome back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Companies Behaving Badly-Functionality

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Nationalsafmongrims

 

 

Companies Behaving Badly-Customer Service?

 

Welcome back.

“When you blame, you open up a world of excuses, because as long as you’re looking outside, you miss the opportunity to look inside, and you continue to suffer.” ― Donna Quesada, Buddha in the Classroom: Zen Wisdom to Inspire Teachers

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Well folks, a lot has happened since last month.   It seems that the cost of a safety program is just too much for American businesses to bare as they believe it cuts into their ability to compete in the market place as well as profits and bonuses.  Then those damn EPA laws also have kept many a CEO, COO and other top executives from maxing profit goals and has forced them to live in a lesser luxury life style.  I am very glad to see that the sight of worker’s amputated limbs and other extremities, their blood, guts and corpses has not interfered with these execs ability to operate at all.   What is even more exciting and hypocritical, is that the U.S. Government is actively protecting me from those illegal bad hombres and other assorted terrorist groups but seem to have no problem if the company I work for tries to kill me.   I have always believed in American manufacturing and ingenuity and to buy American first, the quality and workmanship meant something.  But there is NO reason what so ever that makes it O.K. to sacrifice American workers by exposing them to hazards that have been proven to be needlessly dangerous and can be mitigated except under the delusional belief the money saved not protecting human life, our air, land and water will go to hire and expand the business when we all know it’s not going into the pockets of the hard working employees who do the day to day tasks but into the pockets of executives who sit behind a desk all day and only think, how can I make more money?

Which leads me to this observation made over the last few years.  The more computerized, internet savvy, social media conscience or cloudy we get, companies are losing the human touch and forgetting what customer service is really all about.  It’s not just about resolving problems that arise during or after the sale but ensuring that the entire customer experience is a seamless, smooth event.  This is not the fault of those on the front lines like customer service people, manufacturing workers, distribution drivers or pilots or clerks or other workers but is a result of the lack of planning and foresight by their leadership.  It should be no surprise about the incident that occurred on a United Airlines flight in Chicago when a passenger was pulverized and dragged off a plane for the simple crime of just wanting to get home.  It was just a matter of time.  Even though no crime was committed and the flight wasn’t over booked, the Airline decided it was perfectly fine to displace people by offering an arbitrary set fee for their inconvenience and disruption to their lives due to the airlines incompetence in planning.  What do you mean you won’t take the fee?  Everybody takes the fee!  Your life is inconsequential to us, you’re just a commodity we move.  

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Thats where leadership has failed the most and not just in the airline industry.  Instead of putting efforts into reviewing procedures and policies to improving the customer experience they’ve been looking through green tinted $$ signs and focused on finding ways to make even more money, with less staff and equipment while keeping the status quo in tact, because we don’t need to improve, we’re perfect.  So, again, how can we make more money?  What is the next thing we can attach a fee too where the trade off will be worth it?  Will the number of customers we lose be offset by the money we make for charging for luggage?  We know how that worked out.  To avoid the fee people carry on as much as possible to the point that overhead space is a luxury.  The irony here is when the airline knows a flight is overbooked and overhead will fill up, they wind up checking in your carry on for free.  

Then our friends at Well Fargo decided to enhance the customer experience by opening accounts for customers even though those customers never wanted, asked for or in some cases didn’t even know they had these accounts.  Did the workers begin this practice? NO!  Again it was the corrupt, greedy leadership that had run out of ethical ideas to bring in more money, so they found other ways to justify the means.  Over 5000 workers were fired for this, even though they were told by their bosses, wink wink, nudge nudge, it was fine.  By firing a handful of execs does not change the culture either.  Just as Fox News.  It however sends the message, if you do something to bring in more money, just please don’t get caught.

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The eroding of the customer experience can also be found in many retail establishments as well as they try to do more with less staffing to save money.  Now in my local supermarket you can find workers with large carts going around the aisles.  I’m not totally sure what they’re doing but it could be price and code checking on food items which is a good thing but they are so intent on getting their work done they are always in the way.  Mindlessly blocking aisles or a product you need to get too.  On top of this, add the vendors coming in to set up displays or restock soda, potato chips, bread and other assorted items who are not being supervised by Supermarket staff and who knows what the supermarket’s policy is or if it’s been explained to the vendors but the other day a potato chip guy was setting up and stocking a display at one end of an aisle, blocking access and then a soda guy on the other end restocking.  A person trying to make a purchase could not get through without having to ask one of them to move which gets you a dirty look for being so bold to interrupt them from their busy schedule as they forget YOU’RE THE CUSTOMER!!

Let’s face it, leadership is not always right and especially when it comes to safety or ethical behavior you have every right to question it.  If the company ignores your concerns then it is time to either quit and find another job with a company that appreciates you or stand up and fight.  The choice is yours but when authority is not questioned that’s when the true atrocities come about.  Never keep quiet about safety for the life you save may be your own.

STAND DOWN FOR SAFETY

 

 

Companies Behaving Badly-Justified

Welcome back.
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We’re continuing on the theme from last month of “boys will be boys”, and yet trying not to beat a dead horse.  When it comes to the thought process of “boys being boys” there happens to be one major fatal flaw and that is the ability to justify all of their actions.  It takes a strong willed, determined, stubborn man to be able to ignore all his instincts and training just too save a few minutes in his life like it’s some kind of symbolic victory even though it can just as well be the last few minutes of his life.  The Stream of Conscienceness – By the time I get to the power box to LOTO the packaging machine and then back to clear the jam and back to the power box, OMG, that could take 15 – 25 minutes!  Or another scenario, by the time I have properly anchored the lanyard to my harness so I won’t fall it’ll take 15 – 20 minutes out of my day! 
The JUSTIFICATION – It’s not a bad jam, I bet I can clear it in between the bag fills, no problem or I can just quickly walk out and grab that sheet of plywood in seconds and be done.    TRAINING – becomes irrelevant, COMMON SENSE – Over-road by the adrenalin boost from the thrill of saving 15 minutes.  But, but your training!, the little voice insists. The good news is that 80% of you will avoid this process and go with your instincts and training and do a proper L.O.T.O. or properly anchor your safety lines and wear your harness.  The rest of you will put your fellow workers in the position of scrambling to find YOUR fingers so they can place them on ice for the ride to the E.R. or watch you get zipped into a body bag.  Aren’t your fellow workers lucky to be exposed to that trauma thanks to you and why accidents continue to be the number 3 killer of men or boys being boys?  (80/20 rule – This is according to the Pareto Principle by Vilfredo Pareto a man of many talents who discovered the 80/20 rule.  His birthday is coming, July 15) 
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As if that wasn’t enough, you also have to be aware of the deadly combination of the ability of “justification” with “the boss isn’t here”, which is a toxic and lethal mixture.  It appears that the excitement that young people get from hearing their parents will be leaving them home on their own for an extended period of time just never stops for some.  You remember how when mom and dad were gone for the evening or weekend, the house became your laboratory as you tried out all those awesome adult things but for some reason, our boys being boys have been able to transfer that experience to their boss not being around.  The combination gives a very intoxicating feeling which is nothing more then an open invitation to doing the stupidest, most immature thing possible with a motorized industrial piece of equipment.  Suddenly forklifts become multi-passenger, pallet jacks are midget racers and destruction of life and property never becomes a thought or concern, because the boss isn’t here to see it!
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In days of yore when brawn was more important in a warehouse/manufacturing then brains, horseplay was pretty common as screwing around kept everyone loose and laughing during the demanding workday day.  Along with the colorful language, graphic humor and crass jokes, scores were settled with a fist and the occasional medicinal nip was to keep your parts well oiled and ease the pain of the brutal working conditions.  Just in the last 40 years I’ve watched leadership evolve from verbal berating on the shop floor for all to see to you’re weren’t hired to think, to verbal encouragement, taking input from workers and free thinking.  The tendency for supervisors and managers, especially new ones is to be a nice guy and if the boys need to be boys, well who am I to stand in their way, except you allowing it to go on and not saying anything, in their heads condones their actions.  You can be a nice guy in so many other ways and that’s when true leadership comes in as it can turn around any challenge your facility may face. 
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Coming in to help a facility change it’s culture, the worst thing you can do is make immediate changes in a knee jerk reaction.  Yes, you’re under pressure from upper management, you’re under pressure from sales, customer service and the customers who want their orders delivered correctly.  The added pressure of poor moral and high worker turnover and HR is tired of the constant recruiting and interviews.  Remember, these problems didn’t develop over night and you have no idea what the root cause is. Is it their training, the process, the equipment, the recruiting or their supervision?  The best way to find out is allow the operation to continue as usual, walk around and engage and listen to the people.  Check over their training records and make a list of where the gaps need to be filled.  I’ve always started with introducing myself to the staff backed up with doughnuts and coffee and explain to them know my position on workplace safety and that is, because I believe everyone should go home in one piece and then stick to your position treating everyone equally and fairly.  Too further back up your commitment to safety begin having a 5 minute daily huddle at the beginning of the shift, a weekly tailgate/toolbox meeting and a monthly safety meeting.  Going this route hopefully you should be able to eliminate the term “boys will be boys” in your workplace.
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Even so every once in a while a dinosaur pops-up, like this coach who thought the best way to motivate a player was to mock him in front of all.   SF school coach in hot water for alleged racially charged mocking.  This was a style of management back in the day.  A good deal of my High School teachers and coaches were Korean War Vets and when it came to doing what you were told to do, there was zero tolerance if you didn’t.  Our electric shop teacher had a paddle he had affectionately named Bertha.  He didn’t hesitate to introduce Bertha to your behind if you didn’t follow the rules.  We didn’t question it.  We knew and understood the consequences if we didn’t do what we were suppose too and punishment whether corporal or otherwise was deemed acceptable.  When you’re leading or coaching employees there is no need to call them names or give them degrading nicknames, mock or bully their physical appearance to get the results you want, you’re actually going to build a wall and choke off all communication.  The best thing to do is build a bridge by explaining your expectations and what can you do to help them be successful and achieve their goals which should mean success for you and your team.
Have you heard of the skills gap?  That thing we created in 2008 when the financial crisis hit and companies kicked all the veteran high paid labor to the door with layoffs and downsizing without any thought to the future.  People opted for other career paths and now, we have a skills gap.  Well you and your company can take care of that and develop a sustainable supply of talented employees.  Employers Have An Important Role To Play In Closing The Skills Gap.  With a good training and mentoring program in addition to offering internships to high school and college students, you can develop your own intelligent workforce, greatly increase employee retention and improve safety and productivity.  
Even the best leadership at times can get lost in trying to do what they think is the right thing, like some of our board of supervisors in San Francisco.  San Francisco officials propose banning contractors that bid on border wall from city work I’m not going to get into the politics of “the wall”, we all have our opinion but what I don’t like to see is politicians making matters worse for the working person.  Maybe if our leaders stopped worrying about punishing who builds “the wall” and concentrated on fixing the infrastructure which is in much NEEDED REPAIR companies would be so busy they wouldn’t need the business of the wall to keep their company and employees working.
Since we’re on the bay area, an update on Oakland.  Last month we covered the Ghost ship warehouse fire and the loss of 39 lives.  The leadership in Oakland verbalized their fears and concerns over and over about this.  As usual, it was talk, talk and more talk and now last week, guess what?  Yep we had another fire.  It took 2 deadly fires to make Schaaf push hard for inspectors and 4 more precious lives were lost due to being talked to death by the cities leadership.  We’ll keep an eye on the body count for you readers as the talk and more talk goes on.  By the way, it’s not just the lack of inspectors but the process that needs to be reviewed and improved as problems keep falling through the cracks but that will take leadership to fix so don’t hold your breath.
With the news blackout going on at OSHA, because you know, information is a dangerous thing to have go around, people may begin thinking for themselves there has been on new bright spot.  Jordan Barab, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor at OSHA from 2009-2017 has started a blog called “Confined Space”.   Follow it!!  It’s a great source of what’s going on in workplace safety.

NEVER KEEP QUIET ABOUT SAFETY my friends, for the life you save may be your own.Until next month, be kind to each other and be safe.

Hello Baseball and the NBA playoffs.  Great time of year.

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Companies Behaving Badly-Leadership Lost

Welcome back.

“One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency.” —Arnold Glasow

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“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” —Lao Tzu

It appears of late that everyone wants to be in charge but want nothing to do with accepting the accountability that comes along with it.  Leadership is not about making the most creative excuses or formulating alternate facts.  Leadership knows that whether it’s being used in a warehouse facility, manufacturing plant or any city USA, that maintaining the facility/infrastructure and fair and consistent enforcement of regulations is critical to the continuous success of everyone involved.  Roads and bridges to keep commerce moving, mass transit to move people to their jobs and the utilities to power it all. However, over the years, the across the board robbing of Peter to pay Paul began as cities began playing a dangerous shell game of who gets what funding and attention and for how long which would prove to have fatal consequences.  Instead of dealing with big ticket items like Police accountability,  housing, fair wages, maintenance and upkeep of the infrastructure, the buck passing continued from administration to administration each promising that this is the time it will get done.

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The art of leadership was soon eroded as it deteriorated into more of a caretaker role protecting the status quo and defending your lack of action with excuses.  It’s everyone else’s fault and not mine.  Infrastructure!  The cost is enormous but we still have time before it’s critical.  Housing for the poor? Relax, we have lots of unsafe vacant warehouses available.  We’ll look the other way, wink, wink.  Fire, police, homeless. Relax, we have the community in a dialogue over how we’re busy trying to keep our baseball and football teams in town. That’ll then solve all our other ills.  Until then, just wait.  The leadership vacuum continued and now, well, we’ve all seen the headlines.  Ghost Ship Warehouse Fire, 39 die! The problem was there, they knew about it, it dropped right through the cracks.  For a little while the plight of the homeless and affordable housing was the focus as their deaths would hopefully lead to something.  The voices faded.  Oroville Dam Spillway collapses followed by the sequel, the emergency spillway is not working either!  Hundreds of thousands are evacuated!  People’s lives severely disrupted!  The Governor gave his dog and pony show on how we’ll fix it, now.  Hmmmm, it got quiet again.  The Coyote Creek in San Jose unexpectedly floods it’s banks as the Anderson reservoir that is allowed to hold only 68% of capacity due to fears it’ll collapse in an earthquake was at 104% and needed to purge.  Yea, I know, but if you think that’s stupid how about the fact the water district sat on $22 million dollars the people had approved to spend on fixing the flooding issues.  The citizens of San Jose near the creek lost everything!  Thousands of them had to be evacuated. The city  and the water district never saw them as people, just collateral damage.   Since we’re on the topic of stupid.  BART has plenty of staffers at station with no trains or riders.  That’s right!  The new station had 5 full time agents and 1 full time train dispatch supervisor standing around doing nothing for 5 months.  The hold up, the new stations computers couldn’t communicate with the much older system that operates BART.  It seems there are issues with communication between the generations no matter where you go.  The punchline is BART now telling us they’re running out of money.  Who ever said incompetence is cheap?

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When you are placed in charge, BE in charge!  Your success is in your hands so have a plan. First, get the basics.  Budget, staffing, equipment, goals.  Then plan on consistently doing a monthly walk around your facility, which can also be combined with a Pop-In once in a while.  You’re looking for what needs attention?  Does the emergency lighting work, emergency exit signs light up, fire extinguishers, potholes, lighting, racks, equipment, charging station, tin cats.  Those are just a few and you’ll come up with items that are specific for your operation.  When you find issues that need to be addressed, deal with them right away.  You saw above what happens when you put it off.  It winds up costing you more money in the long run as well as employee trust and your reputation, which I hope still means something, as you can’t keep telling them to eat cake, forever.

Even though it ended on March 10th, I wanted to mention this event in Canada,  Road Safety at Work Week kicks off.  The government is making efforts to raise awareness and the adoption of road safety practices for company drivers.  They’re on the road almost every day representing your company and whether you like it or not, they are advertisements good or bad.  Make sure to throughly explain your expectations for job performance and level of professionalism.

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In the February 20th issue of Companies Behaving Badly I mentioned the challenge of dealing with boys being boys.  Continuing on that subject of “boys will be boys” we should point out that St. Patrick’s day is this Friday, which is a good thing, bad thing.  Good since it means no sicks calls during the workweek but bad since the filters will be off as there is no worry as most don’t work on Saturday and it’s exasperated by the NCAA  tournament.  This is another semi-holiday we’ve perverted into nothing more than an excuse for a drinking frenzy along with Cinco de Mayo.  They’ve become the alcoholic version of The Purge except the only killing is not to ones own brain cells, but from head on collisions in cars.  If you’re going to drink, keep your car at home, take public transit in and back.  There are also real Taxi cabs available out there as well as those internet alternatives.  You don’t really want to spend the weekend in lock up and most definitely want to come back on Monday.  St. Patrick’s day was a great holiday to be a cab driver in NYC, which I did for 2 years while in college.  It’s not just the many runs you get taking people from one bar to another but the riches to be found in the form of small change that gets lost in the back seat. Intoxicated people tend to fumble around and inadvertently drop things and they tip well too.  Thank you to those who jumped into my cab and helped put me through college as I listened to and helped you solve your life’s problems within a 15 minute ride.

Important information you Welders should know about. Washington University study raises questions about current welding safety standards.  The study examined the long-term effects of airborne manganese on welders and found that symptoms associated with parkinsonism — a neurological condition that causes tremors, muscle stiffness and other movement abnormalities — increased over time.  It may be a great time to upgrade your equipment.

Cone Of Silence On Enforcement News From U.S. Labor Department – Apparently there are those out there in charge who fear the exchange of ideas and information.  Some countries like North Korea, Russia and Iran control what information goes out to the public masses because they fear that information may cause independent thought, discussion and then lead to change.  Change scares narrow minded people.  The U.S. Department of Labor, including OSHA has become silent.  No news on companies behaving badly and their violations and fines.  I personally don’t understand the silence and fear and am very disappointed as one of the best things in this country is the freedom to speak your mind. But just because OSHA has become deaf and dumb doesn’t mean you do too!  Keep treating your workers with respect and give them a safe place to work.  It will benefit you in the long run.  NEVER KEEP QUIET ABOUT SAFETY for the life you save may be your own.

Until next month, be kind to each other and be safe.

 

Hey, did you do it? Come on you can tell me.  Did you really change the batteries in your smoke/carbon monoxide detectors this past Sunday?  No!  What are you waiting for?  

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RBMB-What’s Wrong With Having Fun?

 

 

It was finally shut down day.  After 10 days straight of production on graveyard, it was over and the only thing standing between me and some much needed sleep and family time was the morning production meeting. This rotation, I would be in the first group out the door, smiling and waving on my way out the door to those who still had to deal with finishing the plant shut down.  As the meeting ended and handed the operation off to day shift it was full speed out the door when my boss uttered those words you don’t want to hear, stay back a minute.  Ugh!  I was so close.  The lead superintendent, myself and our boss  were the only ones left when he said.  “Your crew produced some exceptional numbers this rotation and after last night, really put us in excellent position for a smooth shutdown.  You did a great job this shift.”  I smiled, thanked him for the complement, and then added, and they had fun doing it!  As soon as the word fun left my mouth the lead superintendent exploded with, “There it goes again!  What is all this fun nonsense?  They’re not paid to have fun, they’re paid to do a job!”  

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For the record, I never did like this man at all, ever.  He was old school, he told off color jokes, he bullied workers, he was mean just for the sake of being mean.  He was very disruptive to the whole operation at times but had been with the company for a long time and knew where all the skeletons were buried which worked to his benefit, that is until we were bought out by another company.  He didn’t last long, but I digress.  The lead continued, “I heard you also bought them pizza last night?” Yes, I did, they earned it and turned to our boss and said, do you have a problem with our production numbers and pizza?  He smiled back, put his feet up on his desk and answered, “Have a great shutdown and have some fun, you earned it.”

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There is nothing wrong with having fun at work. The manufacturing and food processing industries don’t have to be depressing and stifling.  If your employees really enjoy not only what they are doing, but are also appreciated for what they contribute within a positive environment, confidence in themselves grows and safety and productivity soars.  You should know that fun doesn’t mean having forklift races or burning rubber in the warehouse but it does mean you can have a yearly forklift rodeo to recognize and reward the safest operators in your facility.  Fun can take the form of handing employees a token each time they’re observed doing a safe act or wearing all their proper PPE.  Workers can later redeem the tokens collected for snacks, lunch or favorite team’s hat or shirts.  Fun doesn’t involve micromanaging staff to the point where no one cares anymore about what’s going on but you can have fun listening to employee ideas, improved productivity suggestions and safety improvement recommendations.  Fun can also include a monthly potluck meal and recognition of workers for their contributions on all shifts.  These are just a few simple ideas to keep fun in your workplace.  What are some things you do?

Never keep quiet about safety, for the life you save may be your own.

 

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