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-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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The CERT Experience

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I recently had the pleasure to complete a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team ) class offered by the Vallejo Fire Department.  After 6 weeks of class every Tuesday evening which totaled 28 hours of instruction, demonstration and practice, that all came to completion on a beautiful Saturday morning on Mare Island with a final written exam, practical/drill and the breaking of bread between us new team members and our firefighter instructors.  

The instructors were fantastic, all of them seasoned veterans sharing their years of experience and knowledge.  The CERT program coordinator for Vallejo is Captain Eric Strom who is an excellent instructor, very good speaker who’s easy to listen too with a great sense of humor.  Not once did I feel bored or lulled into a nap, but that also could have been due to the robust firehouse coffee.  Captain Strom had a fantastic support group of fellow first responders as instructors; Battalion Chief Cliff Campbell, Captains Morty Culverwell and Art Gonzales and Engineer Ben Hill were all just as captivating and that’s what makes the course so worthwhile.  You are not only learning the materials in the course guidebook on what to do, which is pretty much black and white but you’re getting first hand accounts of actual real life incidents from first responders and what their thought process was on how they handled a situation.  You learn a lot including about our city fire department and you develop even more respect for what they deal with on a daily basis.  You also can network with other Vallejoans taking the course and build bridges.

godzilla I highly recommend the course.  Why should you take it?  The reality is cities of all sizes struggle daily with their budgets and the cost of firefighters, police, infrastructure repair & maintenance, parks and recreation, public transit, administrative staffing, courts, pensions and lawsuits.  The level of city services are not what they once were and that includes the number of police and fire on duty.  That means for those of you who live in areas where natural disasters can occur, like tornadoes in Oklahoma, hurricanes in Florida or earthquakes in California, when they happen, you and your family could be on your own for a few days if not weeks waiting for gas, water and electricity to return along with other services.  In Vallejo there are only 21 firefighters on duty each shift, that means in the event of a severe quake, they would be tied up responding to the hundreds of calls they would receive after.  Depending on the conditions of the roads in and out of town, additional off duty first responders could be greatly delayed if at all able to get here. The hospitals will be flooded with all kinds of injuries from walking wounded to severe trauma.  This mean you will have to shut off your own gas and water if needed as the fire department responds to the areas hardest hit and/or where fires may be happening.  It means that the fire department will use their resources the most efficient way possible to save the most lives.  So your son’s broken arm may be an immediate priority to you, but the burning seniors center will be the priority to them.

 

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“Main Street, USA” Where search and rescue drills are conducted.

We were lucky in this town for the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 but we sure got a wake up call from the 2014 Napa quake and this program teaches you how to be prepared by putting together a disaster kit, emergency supplies and how you can take care of yourself, family and then neighbors, like a broken arm, after a disaster, allowing firefighters to concentrate on the higher priority calls.  It’s like car insurance.  You hope you never have to use it but if you are in an accident or it’s stolen, you have piece of mind.  Same with the disaster kit.   You hope you never need it but nice to know it’s there.

You can take what you want out of the class.  Self preservation after the big one, doomsday preparation but I think the intent is to help develop a sense of community.  All to often you don’t know a neighbor until something bad like a disaster comes along.  Sure you nod or wave at each other but how well do you know them?  Are they frail, do they have physical limitations or other factors that limit their mobility.  Do they live alone and will they need assistance in an emergency or do they have skills that can help everyone in the neighborhood?   Don’t wait for the next disaster to meet them, get to know them now before you’re thrown together into a blender cause the anonymity happens.  My wife and I had lived in our first apartment together for 8 months before I was transferred to the bay area.  The day we were moving,  the woman who lived in the apartment next door came out and asked if we were moving in.  Never did get her name.

Don’t know when the next class is scheduled to happen but if you’re interested it may be a good idea to email secretary, City of Vallejo, Fire Department, Fire Prevention Division: Shirley.Herbert@city of vallejo.net  and let her know you’re interested in taking the next class. 

Next installment we’ll take a look at putting together an emergency supply chest.

 

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Companies Behaving Badly – Toxic Culture

 

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Each and every company has its own unique identity beginning with its name and logo to its style on how it conducts business, its behavior dealing with customers, vendors and  especially how their own workers are treated, it’s ethics, it’s morals, it’s CULTURE.  Make no mistake about it, the culture of a company is always determined by the people in control at the very top by what they allow and accept when it comes to enforcing the rules and policy.  If upper management only accepts the commitment to excellence in the execution of daily tasks, meeting goals and maintaining high ethics while caring for the health and wellbeing of their workers, then that’s going to be the culture down to the shop floor.  Productivity is high, accidents are very low, workers enjoy their job and the company makes money.  Those who fail to maintain excellence are retrained, punished and or banished from the kingdom.  

However, if management accepts a unaccountable, below parr, sloppy, unsafe and dangerous operation that under performs but excels in finger pointing and excuses with no solutions but full of contempt then that’s the culture that will prevail right down to the shop floor.  Those who try to maintain a higher standard and a commitment to excellence are branded trouble makers, punished and or banished from the kingdom.  You will see in the stories below that culture does make a difference and that a culture of uncaring an lack safe conditions, costs more money in the long run and creates unhappy workers and high turnover.  There are also times when distance is out of sight, out of mind.  A corporation may have the good culture going but in a remote warehouse or distant plant where the leadership is poor or lazy, the message may have gotten lost.  Sometimes all it takes is to hear a new voice with a gentle reminder to get things back on track.  Don’t sit back and watch, become part of the solution and never keep quiet about safety.

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Let’s begin with the N.J. transit system.   APNewsBreak: NJ Transit tops list of accidents, safety fines  This has been an accident waiting to happen for the last 5 years.  In an atmosphere of incompetent unaccountable leadership a culture of complacency and benign neglect developed and spread throughout the system.  No one cared in upper management so no one else cared in the system. The second largest commuter railroad has been involved in 157 accidents since 2011 causing more than $6 Million in damages.  A great deal of the accidents were caused by speeding and drug impairment as 33 of the violations from OSHA included drug or alcohol use which is another red flag of a toxic culture and management never saw it or did anything about it.  OSHA has found a total of 183 violations against them and they’ve paid $519,280 in fines.  The problem is the leadership is so bad and their trust level is nil that they need to replace all of management and begin new with training, evaluations, terminations and build new trust to make sure workers and commuters are not taking potential hazards to work.  It is also sad that public tax money is being wasted. 

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First we heard about the problems with employee fights and other issues at a Blue Apron facility in Richmond, California and of course they said, oh, we know and we have it under control.  Now it turns out there were very similar if not worse issues in the Blue Apron’s busy New Jersey facility a real fight club  This is a culture that was not prepared at all to hire workers or establish good relationships with temp agencies.  Someone in upper management decided they didn’t care if the workers were properly trained and selected for positions they would be successful in.  They thought just pouring bodies into the job would get it done better and faster and sounds like the supervisors they hired had no clue on leadership.  It didn’t work and blew up in their faces and who knows how many mis-shipped orders went out along with warehouse shrinkage and employee turnover this has been one valuable lesson.  Hope they learned.  When it comes to seasonal hiring or additional hiring for your expanded business you need to take the process seriously.  Give the temp agency job descriptions with as much detail as possible so they have the opportunity to find the workers that fit your needs the best.  Take the time to train them, how, what, where, when and why?  They need information to get the job right and most of all make sure safety is covered in the orientation as well.  

Yes, another US Postal Service story.  This is a totally dysfunctional culture with absolutely no leadership and won’t waste much time on it as many of you know how I feel about this organization.  I really feel for those who must work here.  OSHA Cites US Postal Service After 2 Des Moines Workers Suffer Heat Illness While Delivering the Mail  I’m not going to say anything other then you have to take care of your employees, their safety should come first since they’re the ones who make you look good as a supervisor.

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There has been a lot of press lately about how difficult it has been for the construction industry to fill jobs especially the high skilled jobs.  Seems like people are not showing the interest for skilled construction jobs.  Then you read, OSHA’s 10 most common job site violations for construction which has falls as number one and then read Here Are OSHA’s Top 10 Most Cited Violations Of 2016 and falls are again #1.  Hmmm.  Could those be the reasons people are not going into the industry?  Like manufacturing, the construction industry needs to make some serious changes on how it treats people, their training for the job and take a very serious stance for safety on the job and insisting on safety PPE to attract a more diverse group of people to help reduce the labor shortage.  That also means treating women with respect as well as people of different cultural and religious backgrounds.  

Even in a galaxy far far away, it’s still not far enough to escape the long arm of the United Kingdom’s HSE (Health and Safety Executive) who fined the Star Wars production company $2 Million for Harrison Ford’s broken leg suffered on the set. ‘Star Wars’ Production Company Fined for Harrison Ford Accident  Glad to see the British government protecting Han Solo.

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What’s going on in the great state of Illinois?  Workplace Deaths Increase 28 Percent Since 2013.  In 2016 alone, 36 people have died in industrial accidents and the year still has two and a half months.  Complacency is part of the problem.  Things go so well you let your guard down and then, IT happens.  It’s the end of a shift, you’re tired and in a rush to go home.  Your mind is not focused, you don’t notice the puddle of oil and you slip and fall. You think LOTO may take to long and you want to, just get this done so you do and now you’re sitting in pain in the ER with 2 of your fingers in a bag of ice as you still can’t believe how fast that happened.  You get the point.  Safety is always on.  It never takes a sick or vacation day.  It never relaxes in the break room or has a coffee and it never shows up late but it does work OT and you always want it to be there.  When workplace safety begins to get out of adjustment at work, the safety tailgate meetings stop, PPE is not always worn and people stop reporting hazards or following procedure it’s time for YOU to help get it all back on track.  You are part of the solution and you should ask for your safety meetings, insist on PPE and never keep quiet about safety.  Sometimes it just takes a friendly reminder to get even the best program back on track.

Until next month, stay safe my friends.

 

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Companies Behaving Badly-Negligent

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Welcome back and thank you for stopping by.  In most companies, you as an employee are held accountable for your actions at work, whether it’s following safety rules, operational procedures, meeting daily production goals or how you respond to others.  You understand that repeatedly violating those “rules”, will be documented by your employer until enough is enough and you are terminated from the company.  However, when an organization doesn’t bother to follow the rules and is poorly run to the point where it puts employees and customers in danger, why isn’t the leadership held as accountable?  The corporation is the one who pays the fines not the individuals.

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So what do you do if you have the misfortune to work for one of those companies that behave badly like Dollar Stores or the US Postal Service, (both have been in the news a lot this year for doing everything possible to try and kill their workers)?  As I see it, you have three choices.  You can quit and find another job some where else, but that’s always easier said then done and the grass isn’t always greener.  You can make an anonymous call to the OSHA Hotline, 1-800-321-6742 and report it however it may close the plant for awhile during the investigation.  Or you can stay, take your chances, and possibly die on the job.  In that case, also make sure your life insurance is paid up.  I would usually say, go to your union representative but the union at the US Postal Service has become deaf, dumb and blind and have continued to allow their rank and file to be exposed to hazards on a daily bases while they try and do their jobs.

If you do stay and try to become part of the solution even though there is no union to go to, I wish you all the best.  It’ll be tough, long road especially if no one in management cares and Human Resources gives only lip service.  Expect to be harassed, threatened and abused verbally.  Document everything, dates, times, situations, safety issues, results, complaints, anything pertinent.  Try to get as many other workers involved as possible so you can also watch each others back. Stay strong.  You’ll know when the time is right to go to the local newspaper, local radio and lawyers to help you obtain that safe workplace you deserve.  Never keep quiet about safety.

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When I read that a US Postal facility didn’t have working fire extinguishers, Investigating grease fire at maintenance facility, OSHA finds US Postal facility failed to maintain working fire extinguisher I wondered is this management neglect or stupidity?  No one in management there had the brains to check that in a maintenance area, if the fire extinguishers worked?  Sounds to me, the individual responsible for the facility is not capable of doing their job and has no problem putting employees in danger.  So you know, you should have your fire extinguishers checked annually and there are plenty of reliable companies out there that can do this and recharge them as needed.  At home you should check your fire extinguishers along with changing your smoke and carbon monoxide detector batteries with the time change on November 6th.  Don’t think for one minute that the USPS doesn’t have the money to take care of their extinguishers as they have become a cash cow for many companies feeding off their carcass.  Last year the USPS paid Federal Express over a billion dollars to fly their mail as well as giving lucrative contracts of hundreds of thousands of dollars to consultants and advisors which doesn’t appear to be working at all as poor service and incompetence continues to rule not to mention the poor safety conditions like un-usable fire extinguishers, forklifts being used that are in need of repair and unsafe, blocking emergency exits and evacuation routes.  Someone is being taken for a ride and it’s USPS.

Another corporation that has repeatedly demonstrated its lack of concern for it’s employees is Dollar General stores, Dollar General in trouble with OSHA, faces $156,772 for safety issues at Ohio store.  All most monthly, another Dollar store is found to be full of hazards like blocked exits, blocked electrical panels, improper storage of chemicals and little if any training.  The brain trust at Dollar could have easily ended this problem by communicating to store managers the importance of safety policies and procedures and then follow up with a surprise inspections and terminate a few managers but an executive at Dollar must have figured out that it is cheaper to just pay the fines, if and when found, then to spend the money to train and inform all the store managers on proper safety procedures.  This is not a company to begin your career as working here may soon end your life.  It’ll be interesting to see all the finger pointing that’ll occur if an employee or customer is killed due to the companies neglect.

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Then there are the few construction companies that believe men can fly.  You know the repeat offenders who keep putting workers at risk, working at great heights without any fall protection and the industry wonders why they can’t find workers.  Roofer’s first-day injury costs FL contractor $152K OSHA fine.  This contractor tried to kill someone on their first day on the job!!  Without any training or fall protection gear, a worker was carrying a sheet of plywood that became a sail when it caught a gust of wind and sent him over the edge, falling 14 feet only to be broken by a fence that he became partially impaled on.  What a nice first day.  Falls continues to be the number ONE problem in the industry and folks, I’m here to tell you it’s also the easiest problem to fix.  As a worker, just say NO if you are not given proper fall protection gear when working on a roof or over 6 feet off the ground.  If enough say no, the practice of putting people in danger will end.

Then there are the politicians.  Senate delayed train safety rule days before Hoboken accident.  The people we vote for and put into office hoping they have our best interest at heart and not their own and yet delay safety features that could save lives.  There is no excuse for not having the latest in technology available in use.  However, we have allowed our infrastructure to deteriorate to the point where on the road, on a bridge or on a train you can actually be taking your life in your hands.  It’s time someone stands up and says, we need to fix it now, because there may be no more tomorrows.

Workplace safety is a team effort that begins at the top and works all the way down to the shop floor.  Even if your company doesn’t take safety seriously, you can always control what happens in your little part of the world.  Google workplace safety and read as much as you can on your industry.  Read blogs like this on safety and learn all you can.  Go to the OSHA.gov website.  Talk to your fellow workers and begin a safety committee and make all the noise about it you can.  Never keep quiet about safety, since the life you save may be your own.

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This Month’s Tip From WarehouseFlow Advisors-Jul

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Companies Behaving Badly-Senseless too

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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