A Tale of Two Ships

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During a recent vacation, I was unexpectedly presented with a unique opportunity to observe first hand how a company benefits from a solid hiring/recruiting strategy that’s reinforced by a thorough training program and tied together with strong leadership.  I have not been paid to write this article for or to endorse Viking River Cruises.  This is the second river cruise my wife and I have taken with Viking and have enjoyed them immensely and wanted to give the fantastic crews of the Bragi and the Skadi a shout out!   You are all amazing!

The chance came up quickly but not unexpected as we were warned well before the trip that due to the lack of rain during the summer the river water levels in a few spots were low and may not allow for safe passage so there existed a possibility of exchanging ships.  Exchanging ships!?  Really?  Sure enough, halfway through we couldn’t continue but Viking had their plan in place and ready to go.  The day we left Budapest up the Danube on Ship A, Ship B was leaving Amsterdam and traveling Southeast.  The ships were exactly the same so at the designated point we packed and left Room 233 on Ship A, took a three an a half hour bus ride got on board Ship B to Room 233.  Meanwhile like an alternate universe, the folks on Ship B were doing the exact same thing.  It was seamless as we gained a new captain, new waiters, new bartenders, new housekeepers, and new crew with only one exception and the one constant in our experiment, we kept the same social director.  All said and done I spent one week with Ship A’s team and one week with Ship B’s team and two weeks with Joey.

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My first thought was this was going to be more difficult for the service crew on both ships to adjust and handle as they had already established relationships with the various passengers and cliques which had formed over the first 3 nights during a speed dating like process aboard ship, which is considered a sacred ritual on all cruise ships. It’s interesting to watch the groups slowly develop like cultures in a Petrie dish as the open auditions have now ended and the “who they want to spend the rest of the cruise hanging with” is decided and the crew now quickly re-learns all the new preferences and idiosyncrasies.  The selection of folks to choose from on this cruise was tantalizing as just about every state was represented including California, Washington, Oregon, Michigan, Alaska, Virginia, Texas, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Illinois, Connecticut, Tennessee, and Florida as well as a few Canadians and Australians tossed in for good measure. 

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Now, before we continue, let’s get this out of the way right now.  The rooms were not “identical” as we were lead to believe.  We noticed almost immediately one glaring difference between Ship A room #233 (on the right) and Ship B room #233 (on the left). The paintings were not the same!  So now we know the truth, the rooms are just very similar.

When you look at the overall operation of both ships, which was equal, you see the benefits of the recruiting and screening process of applicants, (finding the talent) and a great training program (sharpening skills) to ensure consistent uniform perfection in service, actually, it’s more what you don’t see as they all work seamlessly.  The level of thoughtfulness, professionalism, attention to detail and passenger safety provided by both ships crews was second to none as every wish one could have, was immediately handled with grace and flair, all accomplished by a diverse workforce of Hungarians, Slovakians, Bulgarians, Romanians, Filipinos, Serbs, Germans, Dutch, Italians, French all working together as one team. No issues of borders or politics, just one focus, one goal in mind, service extraordinaire. 

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As uniform, as the two ships were in performance, there were also lovely expressions of individuality by the staff in their flair and presentation. The way they greeted you, the way they poured, the way they took orders, the way they joked and the way they smiled and the longer you spend time with them they open up more as who they are.  However, there were some glaring differences in individual performances.  The breakfast omelet maker on one ship was the best of them all.  His technique was absolutely entertaining and fun to watch.  As he listened to your request he placed butter in the pan and as it melted he then placed the ingredients you ordered in as well.  He knew exactly when to flip and fold it which he did with one quick jerk of the pan and it came out perfect every time.  You can tell he really enjoyed what he was doing as he was always upbeat and had an infectious smile which was awesome to begin the day.  On the other ship, the breakfast omelet maker was nowhere near as good.  He always looked like he was having a bad day and unceremoniously tossed the ingredients into the pan, letting it get too hot and always over browning the bottom of the omelet and he had absolutely no zip in his flip.  The experience was such a put off I had cereal.

While in the lounge/bar area on one ship, we never had anyone in our group or overheard anyone complain about their drinks but on the other ship, we not only heard someone at the bar complain about how their old fashion tasted but later one in our group was having the same issue with their old fashion.  By all accounts, it seems someone was leaving out an ingredient.  I’m sure in both instances through the feedback received from guests, steps were taken in the manner of a refresher training for those individuals.  I did mention that the operation and service of both ships were equal but in my opinion, the food overall, especially the dinners were much better on one ship than the other.  It was more flavorful, seasoned well and better prepared.

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There was some outstanding service as well.  A server on one of the ships was very bright and caught on right away that I always had coffee after dinner, every night without skipping a beat.  As soon as the dessert orders began rolling out he was ready with coffee in hand and a smile on his face.  Then there is the “my phone” story that is a great tale of Going That Extra Mile.  I had left my phone on one of the tour buses.  In my defense, I was dazed and confused having just woken up after nodding out during the bus ride from a tour of the town.  When we arrived back at the ship I totally ditzed and forgot to check the seat pocket.  As soon as I stepped back on to the ship I realized I didn’t have it!  What must have looked like a crazy man on the lam I ran off the boat but the tour bus had just left.  I went to the concierge desk and Joey was there so I explained what had happened.  Joey told me he understood and would reach out to the bus company but the ship had to leave on schedule and couldn’t wait for the bus to return.  I told him I understood and thanked him on whatever they could do and went back to my room.  Having given up on ever seeing my phone again and enjoyed an extra drink to help ease the pain. After the evening presentation for the next day’s tours, we were walking from the bar area to the dining room when the concierge called to me.  As I turned around he stopped, smiled and handed me my phone.  I wanted to kiss the entire bus company and everybody on board.

But the glue that bound it all together, the training, screening, and service was Joey.  He was our social director who had established a rapport with everyone even before we boarded the ship as he introduced himself as we checked in.  He was the voice we would come to trust through his nightly presentations that were not to be missed as they were always delivered stand-up comedic style, upbeat and full of energy with a dry sense of humor.  After we had a cocktail or two he’d make his entrance into the lounge and quickly review and critique that days highlights followed by the weather report for tomorrow and then the introduction of the chef who’d give us the menu rundown followed up with Joey covering the next day’s cities and tours and other planned activities.  Joey became the voice of the ship, he was the voice of Viking as he was the one who had to deliver the bad news that we had to switch ships but did it so it sounded more positive than negative.  He was always around making sure everything went like clockwork.  He was there as the tour groups formed and boarded buses, boarded bicycles or walked to town.  He checked in and up on the guides, always interested in feedback.  In addition to our entertainment, he was just as responsible for the safety of all the guests on their land tours as the captain is aboard ship.  What I admired most was no matter how many fires he was putting out, finding passengers lost in the local town, listening to unhappy guests, answering questions about local stores, reuniting lost belongings including phones to guests you never saw it in his face, you never heard it in his voice, there was always a smile and he always had time to listen.  The last day aboard ship as we were waiting for our transportation, I got to watch Joey in action as he was in constant motion, saying goodbye to his leaving flock while simultaneously welcoming new busloads of guests to their journey.  Still full of positive energy.  

My high school football coach used to tell us to give 110 percent or you weren’t committed.  I used to think that was a ridiculous statement since you can’t really give more than 100% but if anyone could give 110% that would be Viking river cruises.  What I have learned from this experience is more a confirmation of what I have always believed that when talent gets the proper consistent training and nurturing leadership you can accomplish any goal. 

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A Complete Guide To Warehouse Safety-Volume 4 – Training

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After a good nights rest our three travelers were back on the Green Brick Road of Safety  and headed toward Emerald City in hopes that the Head Inspector will help each one with their safety related issues.  The road turned into a dense forrest that blocked most of the sunshine.  It was dark and eerie but the three felt pretty strong walking together.  Dorothy turned to Scarecrow and Tinman and said, this reminds me of a scene from the Wizard of Oz. “What!” both Scarecrow and Tinman rang out in chorus.  Dorothy looked at them puzzled, you never heard, oh never mind.  Lions, tigers and bears, oh my.  “Cute”, said Scarecrow and he thought and sang, “How about.  Falls, trips and amputations, oh my.”  They all chuckled.  Tinman joined in, ” Hazards, PPE and Housekeeping, oh my.”  They all laughed again.  They were bonding into a strong team, each with their own individual skill and working together as a team.  They continued, “Hazards, PPE and Housek….” their fun suddenly stopped when the road abruptly ended and a funiculaire stood before them as the only way to the top of the mountain to continue their journey.

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The three of them stood there, looking around trying to figure out their next move.  There was no one around they could ask, no signs, no schedules, nothing.  The cable car was in station with the doors  open, waiting to go.  Scarecrow turned and said, “Well, I guess it’s self service. Let’s check it out.”  They walked inside the car and looked at the controls.  “How hard can this be?”, Scarecrow asked as he surveyed the control panel.  Dorothy suggested he hit the flashing green button.  Tinman felt it was the right decision and Scarecrow concurred with both of them so he hit the button.  A whirling noise started from under the cable car, lights began to flash and Scarecrow turned to Dorothy and Tinman with a proud smirk on his face.

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Their victory was short lived as the next sound they heard was a loud roar.  HEEEEEY!  A large lion came running from the buildings towards our travelers, yelling, screaming with flailing arms and looking very menacing.  WHAAAAAT ARE YOU GUYS DOING?  ARRRR YOU CRAZY?  They backed away from the lion, they were pretty scared.  The lion ran right up to Dorothy and got in her face, WHO SAID YOU COULD TOUCH ANYTHING?  YOU DON’T KNO….(Dorothy was the first female mechanic at her plant and she has been through it all, the practical jokes, the nasty comments and put downs, the hand gestures, gyrating hips, bullying and the deafening silence but she never quit, she never let them see her cry,  always waiting until she got home for that luxury and over time it made her a much stronger person.  When the lion got into her face it all the past memories rushed once again through her mind and) SMACK!  She stopped the lion mid word, and yelled, back off mister!  If you have something to say to me, say it in a constructive manner and talk to me but don’t you EVER yell at me about my performance again!  The stunned lion began to cry.  

Now, Dorothy also began to cry and as Scarecrow and Tinman started to console Dorothy they both began to cry as well.  “It’s not your fault Dorothy, said Scarecrow while Tinman added, “Yes, he deserved that.”  The lion kept bawling away.  “I shouldn’t have yelled.  It’s , it’s the stress of this job, it’s killing me.  I’m the only one here who can operate the funiculaire and by time I get someone else trained, the Emerald city sends them somewhere else.  There are no training materials of any kind to help me train so 24/7 I’m the guy.”  Dorothy gave the Lion her tissue so he could wipe his eyes.  We didn’t know and only reacted to your shouting.  Scarecrow motioned Dorothy over to him and Tinman and they whispered amongst themselves.  After a short discussion Scarecrow turned to the Lion and said, “Why don’t you join us?  We’re headed to Emerald City to see the Head Inspector.  I’m going to get PPE, and Tinman going for housekeeping.  I bet he has loads of training material you can use, probably even color videos!  Lion loved the idea, they piled into the cable car and off they went to continue their journey.

(The originally title for volume 4 was – Emergency Ready but while reviewing and updating the order of things I’ve decided it should be – Training.  Training is critical to a successful safety program and key to emergency response and preparedness as well as successful sustainable organization due to increased employee retention.  Between classroom lectures and hands-on experience reinforced with tailgates/toolboxes make for a engaged educated safety conscience employee.)

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So here we are folks, more than half way along the Green Brick Road of Safety and the Emerald City is in sight.  It’s been an enlightening trip for me as well and I want to thank you all for the positive responses and fabulous comments on this series.  As I’m sure you remember, we began our journey with Hazard Analysis, to find potential hazards if any, so we can determine the appropriate PPE.  We also discovered the importance of Housekeeping in preventing accidents.  All three large critical segments of workplace safety.  So, after this, are there still more ways to protect your employees?   Yes there is and it is Training. 

Training is the most important part of safety.  Let me say it again, Training is the most important part of safety and works best when it’s delivered concisely, consistently, a little entertaining and with employee engagement and participation.  This goes for all types of training from new employee orientation to forklift certification to operation of machinery to safety meetings to emergency evacuation procedures.  Training is not a one time deal but should be a continuous process of learning, education, recertification, development and growth for building a well trained and confident team, able to react to any situation as one, in a moments notice.  The results of a training program speak for themselves with increased productivity, reduction in accidents and sick days as well as increasing employee retention which is critical to maintain a consistent operation especially in these days of the “skills gap”.  No different then Doctors and lawyers who have continuous education throughout their career as they learn of the latest techniques and tools available for diagnosis and cures.  If you treat training as a joke, that’s how it’ll be perceived and what you’ll get back in return so this is your opportunity to set the tone and demonstrate to your staff or company that you take it seriously. 

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After you assess what training your company offers you can begin to develop a training program to tailor your needs.  By putting a training program together now you’ll be ahead of the game if you find yourself with several new hires or seasonal temporary employees.  You know what daily tasks need to be accomplished by your team for success and you want to develop your training based on what the job entails.  Some companies already have written job descriptions handy that you can use as a template to help but I have found more often than not that many have very old out of date or incomplete job descriptions on file and you’ll probably find training material the same way.  That’s not bad, it gives you the opportunity to make it all yours. 

I would also gather company written standard operational procedures, policies and any other information that you think an employee needs to know for loading trucks or picking orders safely and efficiently.  If you work in a food processing plant or food distribution warehouse you should also include HACCP procedures.  Once you get all the information together and set up in your computer/laptop you’ll see how extremely easy it is to edit and update this information as things change.  Then a great habit to develop would be to review job descriptions, procedures and training at least once a year to keep your workers safe, practices current and regulatory obligations filled. 

Some companies are very good about giving you the talking points for the monthly safety meetings along with colorful handouts which is helpful but that may come across as just spoon-feeding safety to your employees!  Like a scene from Island of Dr. Moreau.  What is the law?  Do not put your hands into moving parts.  This would be great if you were training parrots to repeat back to you.  You want to discuss the topic with you staff.  Get their involvement by asking for feedback on what happens on the floor when they deal with a situation.  At one company during a discussion on Lock Out Tag Out I found out that the workers couldn’t LOTO one machine since the electrical box was so old (I think Edison made it himself) there was no way to put a lock on it.  The company told me it wasn’t in the budget to change it out at this time so to protect my staff and the company I made it procedure to call one of the staff electricians to remove the fuses so we could then lock the housing so no one could start the machine.  I was very surprised how soon that electrical panel replacement got moved up, approved and installed.  

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So when you get that company material don’t be afraid to make a few adjustments to encourage employee engagement.  Are there additional handouts you can use, videos, power-points or other media to aid your presentation in getting the point across.  When discussing PPE don’t forget to utilize staff in demonstrating how to properly wear and adjust, get a conversation going.  I know some companies want training rushed through and done quick but that only trivialize the whole process.  You want people to buy in to the program and if they don’t find the training interesting, they won’t listen.  When they’re part of the training, everyone listens and learns.   

If the need arises for training material to cover a new procedure or piece of equipment, you want to get it to the staff before you go live, well if you want success anyway.  We were transitioning to a new WMS.  We had one of their consultants on hand to help us with the process.  One of our jobs was to fill 2000 lb. bags with product and then produce a barcoded label that was scanned as it moved to a location in the warehouse.  There was no training material and workers on all shifts were making daily errors.  I asked the all mighty consultant when we could expect written instruction for the workers and stop the bleeding.  It’s coming.  It’s coming.  I couldn’t wait any longer, too many things were at stake, time wasted correcting inventory, loss of confidence in the staff, the stupidity of it all so I put together a two sheet instruction manual along with barcode placards and we brought the errors to ZERO.  I asked and watched my staff about the process and what would help them.  They got exactly that and the issue disappeared.

What ever the training you are going to give always prepare beforehand and get your materials printed, assembled and then rehearse your presentation.  Make sure you are prepared to discuss and know what you are talking about.  There is nothing worse than giving out bad information or being contradicted by an employee.  Depending on your geographical location it would be a big help if you have the training material translated into Spanish.  Some workers may understand english much easier than they can read it and this is information you want to make sure you get across.

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General Orientation – Usually given by HR to all new company employees but you can tailor a general orientation training for your department or section of the company  and highlight areas other employees may not have to observe like safety glasses, lunch breaks an sanitation.  After orientation buddy the new employee with a worker to be mentored and help get the lay of the land.

Forklift Certification – You can do it in-house or pay an trainer to come in and handle it.  Either way works but if you have your own trainer you can do the certification any time you need to and they know the facility better and can speak about the layout and hidden dangers.  Under no circumstances should you allow any worker to operate a forklift without obtaining proper training.

Seasonal/Temporary Employee – Using the same materials for regular new employees and  having materials ready will make their training a lot easier.  Even though they are temporary workers they are still human beings and should be treated with the same respect as everyone else.  Even if their first language isn’t english that doesn’t mean they are any less intelligent and you never know who’ll surprise you with a great idea to save time and money for the operation

Safety Training – Can be in the form of a monthly meeting which is most common.  Usually only one topic is covered like avoiding arc flash or LOTO.  When you give training and you are not sure about something, it is perfectly o.k. to tell an employee you don’t know the answer but that you’ll find out and then make sure you get back to them in a timely manner.  Drop the ball once and no one will come to you for anything ever again.

Tailgate/toolbox – meetings are an excellent way to communicate to your staff  as well as  build your own confidence when it comes to public speaking as these gatherings are more informal to a smaller group of people that are held weekly onsite and last no more then 15 minutes.  You can utilize these meetings to discuss a safety issue that just came up or demonstrate a new feature on a piece of equipment or teach a new technique, all to keep safety on their minds and them focused.    They are also suited for a busy work environment since you can break your staff up into smaller groups and keep everyone else working until it’s their turn.  

Huddles – Before the shift begins gather your troops and give a quick run down of the day, how we’re going to tackle it and any specific dangers to be aware of.  If it’s going to be very hot, remind employees to stay hydrated, if it’s raining, remind them about slick floors.  No more then 10 minutes to get everyone on board and going.

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WHAT SHOULD YOU TALK ABOUT?  The best topic are those most related to recent events in your facility that causes you to pull your hair out.  Was there a recent near miss reported in the warehouse or did you observe an employee lifting incorrectly.  Another topic could be to discuss an accident that occurred in a sister plant or in the local area and how can we avoid a similar one.  Keep a reminder list for yourself about seasonal topics you’d like to cover through out the year as well like staying hydrated on extremely hot days, emergency evacuation.  Need more inspiration, just google “Tailgate meeting topics”, you’ll wind up with many great suggestions or sign up to follow this blog.

HOW DO YOU GET EMPLOYEES TO LISTEN?  Well food always seems to be a way to attract people and offering donuts once in awhile is nice but the best way to get them to listen is to get employees involved by having them demonstrate and share their experience.  When I would cover LOTO, (Lock Out Tag Out) instead of me droning on about the associated hazards I would pick a piece of equipment, begin the tailgate there and have one of the top operators actually perform the lock out tag out on the unit.  The whole nine yards.   When they did an outstanding job and they always did, they were given a coupon for a free lunch at the local deli I had previously setup.  You also want to create an atmosphere where people are comfortable to learn and ask questions so they need to know up front there is no such thing as a stupid question about safety, EVER!

Don’t ever hesitate to run your operation the way you see fit but make sure to be up front with workers and explain the rules clearly including the consequences if the rules are not followed but make sure they’re reasonable, consistent and not unattainable. .Make sure to document all training (safety and equipment) by using a sign-in sheets and make sure all employees attending sign to acknowledge their attendance, attach copies of the training material used for that meeting and keep for your records. If you are delivering training and meetings on a consistent basis you will find that a well trained team does impact your bottom line for the better with a sustainable knowledgeable workforce.  

The Green Brick Road of Safety is not an imaginary magical place.  You don’t need to locate any secret hidden portals or drink any potions, it has always been there, before you all along.  It’s the road that leads to a safe and productive work place.  Become a safety advocate, it costs nothing to join.  Keep your fellow employees safe and always keep the dialogue on safety moving forward.  The life you save may be your own.  Be sure to stay tuned for our next leg on this journey and don’t miss an issue.  

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Immigrants in America

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To say immigration has been a hot topic button of late in the United States would be an understatement.  It’s an extremely complex issue involving legal immigration, illegal immigration, DACA, families, persecution, better way of life, lines, separations and walls.  Whether you approve or disapprove of how the current administration and legislators are handling this hot potato, when all is said and done, it is immigrants that have had a large impact on our businesses and nation. 

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It also seems during our history as a country we haven’t always been kind to newly arrived immigrants.  Just ask the Chinese, Italian and Irish immigrants who arrived. They threaten our jobs, they can’t speak english, they look funny, they breed like rabbits.  See, nothing new.  My grandparents came to this country in the early 1900’s to escape religious persecution.  People feared them due to hatred and ignorance spread by jealous and hateful people who got others to burn their businesses, their homes and in some cases beat them to death.  Even though my grandfather was a decorated calvary soldier for the Tzar he was still treated like crap.  After much discussion with the whole family they along with some, left for the U.S. while others decided to stay put.  My grandparents arrived here and found people who again hated them but for just being here and not speaking enough english.  They survived, had four sons, who all proudly served in the military during World War II.  My dad is the sailor on the left.

Diversity allows an exchange of ideas that are filtered through different points of view, different cultures, different educational backgrounds that can lead to a consensus and solutions like creating cures to disease, making a better process to produce steel and overall improve our way of life.  Immigrants have also had a positive influence helping this country become the power house and defender of the free world it had become which can earn you a fast track to citizenship especially if you possess a skill set we desperately need.  

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A case in point is Dr. Wernher Magnus Maximillian Freiherr von Braun who was such an immigrant.  Born and raised in the small town of Wirsitz, in the Posen Province, in what was then the German Empire (now Poland) he grew up to become the main driving force behind developing and oversaw the building of the V-2 rocket for Nazi Germany.  At the time, 1944, it was Germany’s Weapon of Mass Destruction and were built using slave labor consisting of concentration camp prisoners and other enemies of the state.  It may have been intended just for military targets but was also used on civilian targets, mainly the city of London, full of defenseless women and children.  Wernher, also a Nazi party member did a fabulous job for his fuhrer by not only killing over 7,000 people with this weapon but generated fear and panic amongst the public to help get a victory for Germany.

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After VE and VJ days the United States was fast approaching the cold war and we still had only one way to deliver a nuclear warhead, dropping it from flying fortress bombers like the Enola Gay so ideas were desperately  needed to give us the edge.  Lo and behold along came Werner with his knowledge of rockets and with his posse of German rocket scientist.  So rather then prosecute them all for war crimes, they made them an offer they couldn’t refuse.  Work for us building rockets and we’ll spare you going to Nuremberg and trials for war crimes.  Wernher was allowed to work with our military while it wasn’t announced publicly for about 6 months over fears of back lash.  Soon after that he was transitioned to the director of NASA and began our space program in ernest while put on the fast track to citizenship.  

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The ultimate payoff came in the summer of 1969 just about a month before young people began gathering at Yasgur’s farm, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.  Would we have made it without Wernher’s help?  Eventually but it would have been even a longer struggle and what if the Russians had gotten to him first? 

Before you judge and treat that person with the accent like an idiot or terrorist, or speak louder since your raised voice will help them understand english better, remember they are also human beings who are not better, not worse, just different and you don’t know what next innovation, invention or cure will come from their mind.

Companies Behaving Badly-The Hole

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Welcome back and thank you for joining us in another episode of Companies Behaving Badly.  Hope all is going well.

I  hate to always reference my old childhood days and how things were growing up back then but it is my baseline and even though comparing anything to today’s world is not really fair as it’s more apples/oranges kind of thing, seriously, who thought there would come a time when ethics, morals, accountability, and responsibility would fade out of style?  Who knew that the more debilitating problem for companies today is not the ever-widening “skills gap” but is actually the “leadership hole”!

We are in desperate need of leadership as a large vacant hole has developed.  Leaders that listen to every voice and understand their needs in developing consensus with all groups and that it is more important than just winning at all cost for your side.  Unfortunately, there is no short supply of examples out there of the existence of the leadership hole and by all accounts, it’s only getting wider, deeper and we’re all sinking into it.  Leaders who believed that they should be in charge worked hard to get good returns on investment, enough to keep the people happy and enough happy people to drown out the little voices, like wisps of smoke that would rise time to time of abuse and corruption which were really driving the ROI as ethical and moral behavior became profit stoppers.  As long as things were good, a deaf ear was more than the latest corporate fashion.  Luckily the same time as the voices got louder, these honorable men running corporations avoiding responsibility and accountability, believing ethics and morals are weaknesses rather than strengths finally had it all explode in their faces. 

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A gas pipeline blew up murdering 8, a bank caught creating fraudulent accounts, a social media company sold us all out.  They accepted reality television accountability as PGE, Wells Fargo Bank, Uber and FaceBook to mention a few now spend millions of dollars on ad campaigns telling us how sorry they are that they lied and let the green glow of cash and power blind them rendering their moral compass useless and the reason why they didn’t think twice about ripping us off.  “We’re sorry”  “We went astray” “Lost the path”  “We’ll do better”.  All things men caught cheating on their wives say.  By all accounts, not one of them has gone to jail and the ones who did lose their jobs, don’t waste your time feeling sorry for them, they landed on their feet with the ability to go astray again at any time.  Cause “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” and they love us, or our greenbacks actually.

Those corporations were only the tip of the iceberg.  Now the leaders of the largest colleges and universities who are entrusted with the task of teaching, training and preparing our future leaders have let us all down, giving the lesson that listening is not important especially if it’s something you don’t want to hear about the “good ole boys.”  First hand demonstrating to future leaders how to ignore the voices of young women who only want an education and career but had to work twice as hard to get there due to the constant body shaming, abuse, and rape!  Michigan State and U.S.C. , great schools now saying how sorry they are.  Even the city of Berkeley, California where many a mind has been enlightened over the years has sent the message to women of you are not important enough to listen too, as rape kits sat on shelves only collecting dust instead of collecting evidence.

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Look I get it.  When you accept responsibility it takes work, lots of work.  Following up on work-related issues, reviewing your process, talking to employees and listening, finding and filling the cracks in the process, budgets, competition, employee retention, and your bonus. When you’re responsible you also need to be proactive as well, guessing what the future will bring and how to deal with it.  That’s also hard work.   That’s why so many of our leaders just keep the status quo, you don’t have to work as hard and listen to or care about all those whiny people and still collect all your bonuses even if they don’t make the goal.  Life is wonderful when you can shed all your morals and ethics for a few dollars more.

Will there be a new we’re sorry ad campaign in the future for–Bumble Bee CEO Indicted On Charge He Fixed Canned Tuna Price.  Smart and lazy CEO decided hey, we don’t need to compete against each other and fight for a market share when we can all just share the wealth by pricing our product exactly the same.  We all win!  When you shed your morals it is so easy to do and if you think they’re the only ones doing this…..

Then there is ethics I can never understand and seems both ironic and hypocritical to me at the same time.  Human life is a human life, right?  If I believe that human life needs to protected at all costs wouldn’t you want to protect them just as much from dying on the job as from the hands of terrorists? Despite wave of fatal building accidents in Israel, safety is rarely enforced.   Over 100 have died on the job since 2016 but they are still not taking workplace safety seriously letting many of these corrupt construction companies to operate freely and keep killing workers.  If the PLO had taken 100 Israeli lives there would be an uproar for blood, revenge, and retaliation but I guess when you kill your own building, that’s o.k.  It seems to me if you protect human live all lives should matter equally.

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We all rely on and love our local Firefighters.  They do so many wonderful things like put out large and small fires, work in burning buildings to save people, rescue small animals from trees or sewers and make a fabulous calendar but one thing they are not is expendable.  State fines Camas $4800 over firefighter safety violations.  The city of Camas should be ashamed to put two firefighters in danger the way they did.  The job is difficult enough as it is and the key to firefighting is working as a team to make sure everyone is safe while accomplishing their assignments during a fire.  As I have said in previous blogs, my city of Vallejo, a population of 121,000 has only 21 firefighters on each shift and we still have to ask for mutual assistance several times a week between freeway accidents, house fires, chemical spills, and other emergency calls.  

Why be complicit in your own death?  Wichita roofing contractor cited by OSHA.  What kind of moron sends employees out on a roof without fall protection?  Well, Jose Barrientos for one, who was cited by OSHA for exposing employees to falls and other safety hazards and now faces proposed penalties of up to $191,071.  To make it worse 2 of the violations were WILLFUL which means he knew it was wrong and dangerous to not provide fall protection and that someone could be killed but he DIDN’T CARE which is obvious since he’s been cited 5 times in the last 10 years.  Time to shut him down!  This is why falls continue to be the OSHA number 1 violation and killer.  Don’t put your life at risk and if you are bullied or threatened to be fired for doing an unsafe act call the OSHA hotline 1 – 800 – 321 – 6742

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Every job, heck everything you do has its own set of inheriting dangers and how we mitigate those dangers and awareness of those dangers helps keep us safe but you still never know.  These gentlemen were doing their job, covering a story to keep others safe. Thoughts go out to the families of  TV News Anchor, Photographer Die When Tree Crushes Their Vehicle.  This is why you hug, smile and say I love you every day to loved ones, for you don’t know how long that enjoyment will last.  

Until next month my friends, (yes, there will be no issue on June 21, summer hours folks) stay safe and never keep quiet about safety, for the life you save may be your own.

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Secrets of the Professionals Revealed-3

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As we’ve learned from previous posts, we know that companies spend lots of effort and money each year to keep their facilities clean and in tip-top shape to provide you products of the highest level of quality.  Besides training, education, and scheduling these companies to have one more way to make sure they are doing things right. 

There are businesses that, very much like a mother-in-law will come to your facility and tell you everything you are doing wrong in keeping house.  Actually to conduct business with some major companies like Costco, Walmart, Whole Foods or Target your facility has to have a rating of 95 or better and for some only a 98 or better will do.  The ratings are based on the results of findings from the audit by a third party company like AIB International (American Institute of Baking) or ASI Food Safety.   Trust me, for the companies I worked where the score was important for business, the audit process is stressful and the worry endless until you get that report and rating.

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These auditors have a long list of things they look at which are the same for every facility they inspect so the scores are comparable.  The condition of the facility, cleanliness of the facility, sanitation schedule, pest control program, condition of storage containers, receiving procedures, cooler log, freezer log, the condition of the employee restrooms, the condition of the break/lunchroom, standard operating procedures and training.   It’s a thorough inspection and really keeps you on your toes but the secret to passing this inspection and getting the needed rating score is to run your facility this way year round.  Don’t get lax but keep consistent especially since once you begin justifying putting of cleaning and repairs it’ll become all too convenient to keep making excuses until it’s too late.  With that said, I worked at one company that waited until they got their notice of pending inspection, which you request in the first place and  then they’d proceed to freak out getting all the records together on pest control and training and couldn’t even tell you the countless hours of overtime for cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.  Yes, it’s true, not all companies are operated the same.

Then there are a few larger corporations that have their own internal audit teams that would travel around the country and show up unannounced.  Several months after we were bought by an even bigger fish, I can still remember the look on the plant managers face when one of those teams showed up unexpectedly to evaluate our operation as well as to deem who was worth keeping. 

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In your own home, you don’t need a team of auditors checking every nook and cranny before assigning you a score but I’m sure we all know a family member or friend who would be more than happy to do that for us.  However, it has been my experience if you keep up a consistent cleaning routine, do repairs within a reasonable time period and have good food storage habits your home will be safe even for your mother-in-law.

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Companies Behaving Badly-Ethical

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Welcome back, folks.  Hope all is going well and that those April showers brought lots of beautiful May flowers and please take a moment to stop, smell and enjoy them.

I grew up on the streets of the Bronx, a few blocks from Yankee Stadium during a much simpler time.  Mickey Mantle was my hero, Davy Crockett was my fashion maven and Miss Joan on Romper Room was telling me to be a good do-bee.  Television was only black and white but we had 7 stations to choose from and all actually signed off the air late at night.  That was fine as we spent a lot of time outside playing stoop ball, stickball, red rover, and hula hoop while inside was entertained with colorforms, silly putty, and slinky.  We never heard of an active shooter as the only drills we had were either fire or duck and cover from the A-bomb.  We always said please and thank you, respectful of our elders and taught the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.  Treat others as you want to be treated.  So simple, so easy.  But somewhere the message has gone awry and fallen on deaf corporate ears.

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The first time I saw one was soon after PG&E murdered eight innocent human beings in San Bruno, California whose only crimes was going about their lives.  Now, in the last week, I’ve seen several companies advertising on the air, not pushing a new product or must have service but to apologize.  Yes!  I’m sure you’ve seen them as well as Uber, Wells Fargo and Facebook are all currently apologizing for their bad behavior which was screwing over the very customers that support and make them $$$$$.  The apologies are all the same, well produced with lots of words and promises while in the background pictures of people working hard.  “We’re sorry, we got blinded by all the cash coming in and that’s why we didn’t hear you or actually think we had to listen but now that we were caught we are sorry and promise you that things will change.  Really! Cross our heart”  PG&E’s ad campaign has morphed over the years from, sorry we killed but we’re rehabilitated to look our workers are people just like you! 

I understand it’s no longer the simple world I grew up in as a child due to all the advances and discoveries in technology and medicine, (although the flying cars I was promised in 5th grade have yet to materialize, listening Elon?) but when did ethics, morals, decency and integrity become passe?  Is there no place for them in this brave new world?  Can companies only compete and make profits without caring for life an limb or being unethical?  I know they were beliefs from the past but how can you have a culture continue without ethics, morals or integrity?  In France, they think it’s pretty important.  When you are sworn in before giving testimony in court, you don’t swear to tell the truth so help you God but swear to tell the truth on your honor.

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However, Companies are not just expected to demonstrate ethics, morals or integrity but accountability as well as is the case in California.  Two Charged In Death Of Forklift Operator.  The owner and a manager of Good View Roofing and Building Supply have been charged with involuntary manslaughter and labor code violations by the San Francisco district attorney’s office in relation to the death of an employee pinned under a forklift.  If you know you are putting employees in danger, it has come to the point where you could wind up spending some serious time in jail.  If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.

Unfortunately, companies that lack ethics or integrity are located throughout the world.  In England, a company thought it would speed things up if they disabled a safety feature on the compactor.  Firm ordered to pay almost £300k after worker’s legs crushed.  Oh, and they didn’t let the workers know that.  How special.  If you ever see anyone, that is anyone, boss, owner, fellow worker disable any safety feature on a piece of equipment you yell out loud for the whole world to hear, this is not acceptable.  Then call OSHA’s hotline at 1 – 800 – 321 – 6742.  Don’t become a statistic.

Two dead after falling 70 feet in elevator lift collapse in Naples.  Another tragic headline that could have been avoided.  I don’t understand why they weren’t tied off to prevent them from falling?  Isn’t that the whole idea in safety and PPE, to prepare for the unexpected and prevent it from killing us?  A company that cared would have insisted on it but we shake our heads, think how awful this is for them and their families and then we’re back to our lives.  We’re becoming too complacent of others dying.  

I understand we’re all busy.  Busy busy busy.  So busy that we must conduct business anywhere and everywhere including our cars.  Now I don’t have anything so important going that I need to take a call while driving.  I don’t need to look at a text message as soon as it hits.  But, apparently, there are those out there who just can’t wait.  What used to be the talent of common sense for most people has been lost to the point laws are having to be passed.  Maryland Gov. Hogan signs Slow Down to Get Around law.  Now laws are only as good as their enforcement but come on people.  Give all service vehicles, fire, police, ambulance, trash space.  They stop suddenly and usually have someone working around the vehicle.  Better yet, while driving, enjoy the view of the world through your windshield and mirrors with your undivided attention and maybe we can all have a day where there won’t be headlines about the death of a worker.

Don’t be part of the problem.  Just because someone else is not honorable or unethical don’t lower yourself to their level.  Be above it a treat everyone mindfully and as always, never keep quiet about safety, for the life you save may be your own.

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Companies Behaving Badly-Ugly Truth

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Welcome back.  Hope your Mayday celebration was exceptional and that spring weather has finally sprung where you live.

There is an ugly truth out there.  Lets face it folks, no matter how many drills, safety meetings, training sessions, PPE wearing, accident investigations and consultations, workplace safety is just not glamorous! It’s like being a proctologist, who after years of training for the job is proud because they know what they do can be life-saving and important but it’s not something family and friends really want to hear about at the dinner table. 

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There is no DC or Marvel superhero that embodies workplace safety as a superpower although I honestly believe that Deadpool would make a great safety manager.  There are no great songs about workplace safety that reflect the achievements over the years that we can all join in singing, in either rock, hip-hop or country western genres.  There is no special section in the Louvre in Paris that exhibits workplace safety art, however, Venus de Milo comes close or even a traveling King Tut safety art exhibition.  Come to think of it there aren’t even any great phrases about workplace safety.  You’ve never heard a coworker rally the staff at the beginning of a shift by shouting out, “Remember the LOTO!”  There aren’t any sitcoms, dramas, action/adventure or novellas about workplace safety in the theaters or television even though we all know how funny and entertaining that could be.  

                                                   Jerry (in sarcastic manner) 

“Hello, Newman.”

                                                  Newman (in sarcastic manner)

“Hello, Jerry.”

                                                  Jerry (jovial sounding)

“I see you’re caught in the gears again?”     (audience laughter). 

See what I mean?  Hysterical stuff, no? 

Since workplace safety is so cut and dry with very little flair for fashion it’s tough to sell.  You would think PPE is purposely made to look ugly but then it’s made to protect you the best way possible with the latest technology.  It also explains why pretty people who host DIY shows don’t always wear safety glasses and dust masks in front of the cameras, it’ll muss their hair.  It would be fantastic if they gave a disclaimer at the beginning of the show that plain old said, “Due to poetic license our host does not always wear the proper PPE on site otherwise how could you see those perfect teeth made possible by our toothpaste sponsor and understand what they are saying.  However, please do not do this at home but always wear the proper PPE.”

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Sorry, I digressWorkplace safety is a tough sell.  It’s a challenge to present material without putting your audience in a trance.  One way to make it interesting is to have the workers do the demonstrations of LOTO procedures themselves to the group.  Over the course of the year we’ll cover each piece of machinery in the plant with the head operators of that machine doing the actual LOTO and where the emergency shut off is located so everyone on my shift knew what was up.  It’s nice to do since they’re not just hearing my voice all the time, like a parent, preaching how they’ll take their eye out if they’re not careful.  Even PPE is beginning to look more fashionable too especially in footwear, safety glasses and bump caps.

When you conduct you safety meeting don’t just give handouts and leave it at that.  I mean come on it’s cut and dry enough as it is and the best way to get that unapproving eye roll and no one has heard your message.  You want your message of safety to stay with them and allowing your staff to be part of the discussion on the topic instead of spoon feeding it to them is critical to a successful safety meeting.  Issues are brought up, solutions are discussed and resolutions are made.  Wow! What can be wrong with that?  

Usually nothing, but once in awhile you need to remind people the facts of life that they are accountable for their actions because even with the discussions or the reprimands or the suspensions there’s one who will not get the message and that can put others in jeopardy.  If you have done everything you can to help get this individual back on track then you have done your best and it’s okay as well as in your best interest to part ways and move on.  

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Even with all the effort put in it appears that we are currently headed in the wrong direction.  For FY 2016, 5,190 fellow human beings died in industrial accidents.  This is the first time in almost 10 years that we’ve gone over 5,000 and has risen for three consecutive years.  See the Infographic: workplace Deaths By The Numbers.  This is why training is so critical and WHY you never keep quiet about safety.  Even with the new corporate tax breaks some low life companies are padding their executives pockets rather then put the money back into the company for training and safer, newer equipment.  If your company is not responsive to your concerns about safety, they don’t care about your health or well being you need to take matters into your own hands.  Call the OSHA hot line 1-800-321-6742.  

 A watchdog group has put out a list of top offenders in workplace safety https://buff.ly/2I3RdJ7.  But it’s not just these companies you have to worry about.  There are many businesses like supermarket chains and other small stores that are not properly training staff anymore about safety and how to respond.  This puts your life in danger when you visit these stores and why you can’t take your safety for granted and the best way to do that is to be as distracted free as possible.  Stay focused on the task and let the little things wait until your shopping trip is done.

Until next time, stay safe my friends and remember, never keep quiet about safety for the life you save may be your own.

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