Now FLY! An Adventure in Leadership

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I can’t sleep.  My mind is racing and it generates a continuous slideshow loop of what can go horribly wrong for me tonight.  It’s Sunday, New Years Day, I’m home trying to get some extra rest as tonight I fly solo and will be responsible for several million dollars worth of equipment and inventory not to mention the 100 lives that go along to operate it all after only a whole two weeks of whirlwind training, I’m managing the first production startup of the new year.

It turned out the rumors were true about a buyer for the company.  A much larger corporation that produces the same product under a well-known brand name and actually understands the manufacturing process has become our new benevolent masters. Right after the sale, they were all over our plant watching, writing, asking, observing, tallying, poking, prodding, and judging.  After a few weeks of intense scrutiny, the changes came down from the mountain top (corporate) and it began with the immediate disbanding of the three gangs that previously operated the territories. (For more info and history on the gangs read The Company Civil War).

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What was the Creatives gang had now become the Production Department and their management team was beefed up with the hiring of new superintendents.  Along with that word also came that the long-feuding DC and Wrappers gangs were to be combined into ONE department that controlled everything from the packaging of the product to palletizing, storage, and shipping so we all had to find a way to get along let alone learn to trust each other.  Our former leader, Raoul was quickly pushed into retirement and shoved out the door, along with one other longtime DC superintendents.  Pete the sweet was demoted from leader of the now-defunct Wrappers to a Packaging Superintendant and soon after that our new head of the new packaging department arrived. 

Back after the sale when they were reviewing us all it was decided that the other DC superintendent, Brad, and I were worth retaining for entertainment and torture purposes as we were now going to be trained and transformed into packaging superintendents.  Brad and I had an awful lot to learn especially since before this merger of the gangs we were always discouraged from entering or nosing around in Wrappers territory. 

I walked into the kitchen, “What are you doing up?”, my wife asked.  I can’t sleep and all I’m doing is just laying there and torturing myself.  “Do you want something to eat?”  Sure, I answered and while you do that I’ll put up some coffee.  I’m going to need a full thermos tonight.  As the coffee brewed I pulled out the drawings and notes that I quickly jotted during my so-called training.  My training consisted of me just barely keeping up with my trainer as I followed him around, up ladders and down man lifts, under moving conveyors and behind spinning dryers.  For a man 20 years my senior he moved with ninja like quality at an incredible speed but spoke even faster while giving me a running dialogue of the sights we were seeing just like a tour guide.  He had a heavy accent and I was behind him as he spoke 90 percent of the time while wearing earplugs and surrounded by loud machinery so I wasn’t really sure what he had pointed out or what he was telling me and before I could get my bearings as to exactly where I was in the plant he was off again.

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The most unfortunate aspect of our training was that good old Pete the Sweet was put in charge of it and he still carried a grudge against us so it wasn’t going to be easy.   He’d call Brad and I into his office and would roll out maps and diagrams of the areas we were supposedly in earlier but they never quite look the same on paper as in real life.  At the end of each day, he’d ask with a silly smirk on his face, so you got it now?  Every day I’d look at him straight in the eye and say, no.  He’d chuckle and say, well you don’t have much more time.  Whatever the hell that meant.  What helped me the most to learn and figure it all out was to wander around on my own usually during my lunch break and I’d come in a half-hour before and stay half-hour after my shift, making notes and asking the operators questions.  It’s amazing how much employees love showing off their knowledge of the operation to someone who shows a genuine interest.

Well, ready or not it all culminates tonight.  In my head I hear, “Now FLY!” and laugh at myself as the thought of a Monty Python cartoon where a giant foot kicks people off the top of a mountain as it yells, FLY!  Of course, all of them just drop straight down the side of the mountain and land with the loud sound of a splat!  Could be me tonight.  “Aren’t you going to eat that?”  My wife’s voice brought me back to reality.  Oh, yea, sorry.  I ate, packed my lunch, filled my thermos, grabbed my notes, kissed the family goodnight and drove to work for my solo flight.

As I drove down the road towards the plant it appeared to look larger than usual and could have been a distortion due to all the plant lights against the darkness of the night or just an overflow of adrenalin.  I parked and got out of the car.  Stood there for a moment, closed my eyes deeply inhaled the cool night air, and walked up to the guard post and checked in.  Since this was startup there was no previous shift to take a handoff from so after checking and finding no call-ins on the sick line, a positive, I walked packaging to check in and introduce myself to all the stations and make sure everyone was getting ready for the fun ahead.

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The first thing I realized during my rounds was that not only did Pete see to it that our training was less than stellar but the team he had assembled for my shift was scattered with a few experienced people but mostly those with the least amount of seniority as well as the least trained and then for good measure, threw in every misfit and malcontent from the other shifts.  Pete had stacked the deck against me and I would soon learn one of them was planted there so Pete could track my activities.

Back at the office and was worried about my green staff who were being led by a green superintendent and that my first day was going to be my last.  I sat in my chair, looked at the packaging schedule, actually just looking through it as my mind floated when I was Jared by the phone ringing.  Production was sending over the finished product to the bins and we could begin to pack.  I regrouped and remembered what had gotten me this far but also had something going for me that Pete or myself never imagined.  

We were scheduled to run seven packaging lines and now that the bins were full of product we were ready to go.  Most of the crew knew that I was brought over from the distribution/warehouse and had gained respect there for championing safety, in fact, shutting down a palletizer because it was missing a chain guard exposing employees to leg amputations and also generating work orders to be expedited for safety reasons then posting the work orders progress so all the employees could see it.  It was a great morale booster as most of the w/o were generated by issues employees pointed out.   

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It took a year there to get to that point of trust and it didn’t help that people like Pete the Sweet and most of the previous old management treated employees like crap.  They yelled, threatened, harassed, and discriminated against them, and if one of Pete’s spies could find something juicy they would blackmail on top of everything else.  That wasn’t my approach and it had worked very well for me.  As I touched base at each station I didn’t tell them what to do, I asked if they were aware of the schedule, did they have all the raw materials they needed or anything they needed.  Some of the operators were so welcoming, demonstrating how their machine worked and how it could work more efficiently.  It was the best education I could get and I was getting paid on top of it all. I took notes on issues brought to my attention so I could look into them.   

Even those that were deemed as trouble makers or non-redeemable approached me and only wanted to be heard and not told it’s none of their business or promise to get back to them and then didn’t.  It turned out they were capable and job knowledgable employees just no one gave them the opportunity to care before.   The one thing that Pete never counted on is that his dislike by all would help us bond together and as much as I empowered them they taught me manufacturing, maintenance and patients.  During the next six months, we became an amazing team out producing the other two shifts on a regular basis but this would spur jealously in Pete as he could never motivate a team to achieve what we were doing.  Luckily it was soon after he began cooking the production numbers before sending them to corporate to make us look bad that he would be caught.  In addition the team knew who his spy was and several of my staff quietly pointed him out to me from day one and sometimes for pure entertainment we would feed him all kinds of stuff which we knew would drive Pete crazy.  Soon Pete’s rhein would end as the company terminated his employment for several issues and the general culture generally improved to a more positive and productive one.  This was an exceptional team of people, from every spectrum of the human race and I was truly proud of them all.  We got through some tough spots but got it done through strong communication, training, trust, and respect.  

You don’t have to know everything to get the job done as long as you can motivate a team to navigate, you can learn to fly.

 

Learning to Fly
Well, I started out down a dirty road
Started out all alone
And the sun went down as I crossed the hill
And the town lit up and the world got still
I’m learning to fly, but I ain’t got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing
Now the good ol’ days may not return
And the rocks might melt, and the sea may burn
I’m learning to fly but I ain’t got wings
(Learning to fly)
And coming down is the hardest thing
(Learning to fly)
Yes, it is
Now some say life will beat you down
Yeah, it will break your heart, steal your crown
So I started out for God knows where
But I guess I’ll know when I get there
I’m learning to fly but I ain’t got wings
(Learning to fly)
And coming down is the hardest thing
(Learning to fly)
I’m learning to fly but I ain’t got wings
But coming down is the hardest thing
Yeah, that’s
I’m learning to fly but I ain’t got wings
(I’ll tell you one thing, baby, I’m gonna learn to fly)
Coming down is the hardest thing
(Yeah, and fly over my troubles, fly over my worries)
I’m learning to fly but I ain’t got wings
(Fly up high in the blue sky, lookin’ down on the world below)
Coming down is the hardest thing
(Yeah, above all my worries, and over my troubles)
I’m learning to fly but I ain’t got wings
(Yes, it is, yes it will, gonna work, fly)
Coming down
Baby, that’s the hardest thing
 
 
 

Downtime Can Be Good Time

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Downtime!  A word that can send chills down the most seasoned production manager’s spine especially when it’s unplanned.  These little headaches often arrive in the form of product packaging jams, a broken belt roller, a burned out motor or a blown fuse but are quick fixes with production back up and running usually at most within two hours, (as long as there is a spare motor in the storeroom which I can tell you from experience is not always the case).  Then there are those real shift killers of downtime when a pallet stacker has lost its memory and refuses to be reprogramed or the main screw conveyor that brings product from production snaps and a fire watch must be set up before it can be welded.

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When you encounter a long downtime period whether it is planned or out of the blue you can be the hero if you already have a list of projects ready at hand for just such an occasion.  Depending on contracts, company policies or other past practices when there is no product to pack or produce some employees are able to and may opt to go home, please check into your situation before assuming you’ll have the staffing to accomplish your lists of projects.  However, if you can and want to keep employees busy then you can use the opportunity to actually make your team stronger.  Some items you may want to include on your list are:

1 – Cross-training – One of my favorite things to do during downtime.  I expected my supervisors to work one level up and two levels down and all other staff to be able to accomplish at least two functions.  For a shipping forklift driver on the dock that meant they could also pick an order via voice or operate the bailer.  This helped greatly during peak season and was able to reward employees with higher hourly salaries based on the number of jobs they could perform.  Downtime is the best time to refresh or conduct training and the best people to train are the ones currently doing the job.

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2 – Drills – Great time to have an emergency drill and see if everyone responds to a spill, gas leak, fire or employee injury as they should and make sure they use all the emergency PPE required for those emergencies to ensure they properly function.  Breaking the group up into teams and competing in response times can make the training fun.  Rewards for winning teams can be pizza, sandwiches or one team serving breakfast to another.

3 – Walk Around (Gemba walk) – It’s also a great opportunity to walk your facility to see if there are any issues that may need to be addressed.   Sometimes when you are caught up in the day to day activities going on around you, it’s easy to miss small issues like bent rack support, missing fire extinguisher label or burnt-out light.  Make notes and get those things repaired immediately.  One thing I have found out over the years if your facility looks good people don’t look deeper as they have confidence you know what you are doing and besides you owe it to your employees to give them a clean organized place to work.  Don’t know if you’ve heard the term Gemba walk, but it’s part of Six Sigma a philosophy on improving and solving problems.  I love the sound of the name, Gemba but you can call it whatever you want.  Google Six Sigma, 5S, or Gemba when you get a chance it’s an interesting aspect to add to your repertoire.

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4 – Cleaning – One activity that never gets done enough especially since a lot of companies have severely reduced or totally eliminated their sanitation departments.  Keep a list of areas and equipment that would benefit from a good deep cleaning.  Other areas to consider would be dusting the racks, cleaning under the dock levelers (it’s amazing what collects under there), sorting pallets, washing ceilings, or dealing with the dreaded employee refrigerator.

What other tasks would you tackle during downtime?  When it comes to downtime for retooling, modifying changes to production lines or yearly maintenance that is another situation altogether as most employees considered non-essential for retooling must take their vacations like it or not.  Some companies track downtime for performance-related issues and determining future expenditures as well as longevity of equipment and materials but think how good your production report will look when you have downtime but demonstrate what you accomplished to make the company better.  Yes there are companies that understand stuff happens but more interested if you can make lemonade.  So far be it from me to tell you what to do with your employees during downtime but make sure you’re not missing out on that golden opportunity?

 

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Companies Behaving Badly-Rules? We Don’t Need No Stinkin Rules

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As it is workplace safety is not the most glamorous topic around the world and when it comes to personal safety in general it’s not something most people talk about at all unless a major incident has been recently covered on television or the internet.  It doesn’t help when safety managers and other professionals are perceived and portrayed as scolding mothers reminding the kids to wear their mittens or put away their toys.  The reality is it’s not easy walking that fine line between what the regulators proclaim, what the company wants, what the employees comply with and what YOU know is right.
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What the recent defiant acts of the people, opening a salon by the owner while quarantine ‘stay at home’ orders were in effect or protests by other members of the pubic serve as a perfect example as to why workplace safety is so difficult to prevent 100% of accidents.  When you are dealing with people, as we are witnessing when it comes to the health and safety of others let alone their own health and wellbeing, they’re going to do what they want to do even if what they believe to be their right is wrong and dangerous.
So your company spends all the money in the world on high-quality training manuals full of detailed glossy colorful 8 x 10 photos, along with the best quality professionally produced videos possible and enlist the most elegant and entertaining silver voiced of all motivational speakers and after all that plus the additional training reminders, slogans, contest, drills, toolbox meetings, tailgate meetings, monthly meetings and huddles if that worker has it in their head they can still beat the machine and grab that jammed package out of the way without doing a proper Lock Out Tag Out, they’re going to do it, consequences be damned, not when a challenge is right there in my face.

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p>Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Unfortunately the consequences of this employees actions are a reality no one wants.    The employee wound up with a serious injury (total of 15 stitches on two fingers), the company issued a written reprimand along with a 5-day suspension without pay so the employee could contemplate the error of their ways and then upon their return must suffer further indignity by going throught the company safety orientation and safety training on his machine again before being allowed back to work.  Do you now have.a loyal happy employee?  Was a suspension necessary? I didn’t think so, I thought the injury and safety refresher was enough.  Why did he do it and will he be careful and use better judgement next time?  Only the shadow knows. We’ll come back to this later on.
When the people openly protested the stay at home quarantine and gathered close in proximity while not wearing masks or other protections they did so because they believed their freedom to do what they wanted was being taken away.  Their freedom to expose themselves and innocent people to the virus.  Isn’t it funny how people pick and choose which freedoms they want but damn everyone else.  What if a manager or supervisor believed repairs on a piece of equipment needed for production was taking too long and he wanted to sped it up and decided to unlock the LOTO in place at the power source and get things going while a worker was still finishing up on it.  Is he wrong?  He did justify his actions by stating his concerns that his bonus may be reduced for not meeting production goals or as we used to call it making quota?  Because of that, he would not be able to feed or properly care for his family and so he cut safety corners even though someones life could have been at stake.
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Let’s take it further.  A manager is tired of the production line stopping and starting due to a safety mechanism.  The device is doing the job it was intended for and that is stopping the high-speed production line so employees don’t get injured or worse, caught in the conveyor and killed.  However, this manager is concerned about losing his job due to problems beyond and within his control at the plant.  So to get ahead on production he disables the electronic eye from stopping the machine and keeps the line going, that is until an employee got a sleeve caught and was pulled in to the machine and now ironically the line is down and production halted until OSHA can finish their investigation.  As he told the grieving widow, “Yes he’s gone but we met quota and hey, you’ll meet someone else, no big deal.”
In actuality these two stories are OSHA violations and would be willful violations at that but hopefully it bothered you that people were purposely put in danger.  It is against the law to tamper with safety devices and yet like everything else in life there are those who will obey the law and do proper LOTO and then there are those who only care about themselves and their own greed and that’s why more than ever we need to watch each others back.  Now back to our machine operator with the stitches.  Did the company really do justice in that situation?  Did they look at all the facts including his previous record in which he was given increased responsibilities over the 5 years he worked there and improved his skills and abilities without an accident until now?  No, they did not, only pointed out he had an attendance problem over a year ago as they didn’t care it was due to issues he had with childcare.  So what motivated him to do what he did?  Could being pushed to make quota be a partial cause for his accident?  Was it to close to break or end of shift and his blood sugar was off?  Was it boredom or just a case of poor judgment?  The truth is he was was going to hit a new personal high on the number of cases packed on his machine during a shift.  He was very proud of himself in how well he had the machine tuned and got lost in all the excitement and really wanted to hit that number.  The good news is he will set a new record on that machine and he won’t lose any body parts to achieve it.

 

So as we see contrary to popular belief, rules are not meant to be broken.  It’s actually records, records are meant to be broken.  Rules are put into place for a reason and not just because Mom said so, or your teacher is mean, or your boss is a jerk but to keep you safe from yourself and the world. So before you decide to change or ignore them be sure you are ready to suffer the consequences.
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Safety Lessons Learned From Wile E. Coyote 4

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Today’s lesson learned from the Wile E. Coyote school of safety where they constantly defy the laws of physics, perverse the rules of nature and live in animated immortality.  But here gravity always rules.

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LESSON 4 Preventing Falls: Falls don’t just occur off the top of a building but can happen in facilities where production occurs within buildings of several stories including several levels of mezzanines and conveyors belts.  Lack of railings, guard rails or open holes in floors are especially dangerous in these areas since you are not wearing fall protection gear so if you drop the only thing stopping you is the bottom.  If you were to slip or trip in an elevated area the safety railing/guard rail is there to stop you from going over the side preventing serious injury or death.

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If a section of safety railing needs to be removed for repairs or replacement it should be completed as fast as possible and not wind up on a backburner.  Until the railing is back in place properly mark the area as hazardous with signs and cones and limit the amount of traffic.  As far as the odd holes in the floor, they’re usually the result of machinery that use to operate in that space.  Why some companies leave the holes I’ll never understand as it’s dangerous and illegal to do so. How can you concentrate on your job when you have to wonder if you’re taking your last step.  In areas where a lot of debris is created makes the holes even harder to find.  Cover and repair them immediately!

If these unsafe conditions exist where you work and you have reported them and no one gets back to you, there is no movement to correct it, or you’ve been told to mind your business and you’ve spoken with H.R. and/or your union representative and still, nothing is done then you have to decide how important your life is.  Call the OSHA Hotline 1-800-321-6742(OSHA) and make an anonymous complaint.  The life you save may be your own.

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Safety Lessons Learned From Wile E. Coyote 3

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Today’s lesson learned from the Wile E. Coyote school of safety where they constantly defy the laws of physics, perverse the rules of nature and live in animated immortality.  But in our world, the earth sucks as gravity still wins.

 

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LESSON 3 – Weight Limits.  Each of you has a limit on how much weight you can lift and hold safely.  Machines and equipment are very much the same way in that respect. When they are built at the factory, with the specifications made by engineers, they can easily move or lift the weight they were designed to handle.  That’s why it’s important to familiarize yourself with those limits so you use the right equipment for the job so it’s done quickly and safely.  

 

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This applies to everything from forklifts (try to pick up something over the weight rating and you will tip over) motorized pallet jacks and tugs.  It also applies to trucks, (too much weight on an axle will get you red-tagged at the state scale because it’s dangerous). An overweight truck is harder to stop and very unstable and harder to control on the road.  Even the steel racking in your warehouse has weight limits that you must observe and should have posted so everyone can stay safe and not worry about falling racks.  So as you see it’s just not just fashionable to worry about being overweight but healthy for you on many levels.

 

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Safety Lessons Learned From Wile E. Coyote 2

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Today’s lesson learned from the Wile E. Coyote school of safety where they constantly defy the laws of physics, perverse the rules of nature and live in animated immortality.  But in our world reality always wins.

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Lesson two – Daily inspections and checklist.  Yea, yea. They’re a pain, every day the same thing, what a waste of time said one employee as he picked up a forklift checklist and just marked everything off right down the list as ok without even looking at the forklift.  When I challenged him on it he asked does anybody really look at them?  Yes, I do, I replied.  Not only did I look at them and keep them on file but when items are indicated that need maintenance or repair I always attach the repair technician’s report of repairs so there is one easy continuous paper trail available if you were to ever have an OSHA audit.

 

However, what is more, important than the completed checklist is the actual conduction of the inspection.  That’s right, the checklist is not there just to torture you but to remind you what to look at and for during that preshift inspection so the forklift or other powered vehicle is safe to operate for the full shift.  An inspection report is a tool for communicating needed maintenance and a legal document that must be properly completed.

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Did you see a puddle under the vehicle, does the horn work properly, what condition are the tires, do the breaks work?  Those observations make inspections critical to your safety.  Don’t assume the last person to operate the equipment had no problems or the warehouse fairy will do repairs overnight and if the horn stops working or the breaks are pulling don’t wait to report the problem on the next inspection.  Stop and report immediately!  Take the few minutes to do a proper inspection, complete the checklist and have a productive day at work.

 

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The TopTen OSHA Violations Before Christmas. On the Second Day

 

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Santa received a notice of violation( 1910.212) Machine Guarding. This is #9 on OSHA’s TopTen violations for 2019.

After solving the PPE issue yesterday, let’s take a look at machine guarding.  As we had mentioned yesterday, machinery is extraordinary and can be challenging yet quite rewarding to operate and maintain.  Some professional operators have such a strong bond with their machine they can tell just by the sound if it’s running at it’s best.

Most machines are constructed to operate with many moving parts.  Gears, belts, chains, cables moving at high speed so the machine can do what it needs to do to produce that end product for your customers.

While watching the elves at work above, it’s obvious that they are exposed to moving mechanical parts. When you are trying to concentrate on keeping a machine operating and have to move around the machine you shouldn’t have to worry about getting caught in the moving parts and losing a limb or your life.

  1. Gears, belts, and other moving parts should have machine guarding which is a cover for the moving parts so you don’t come into contact with them.
  2. Some machines have auto shutoffs, so if the guard is removed the machine will not operate.  Never tamper with or disable an emergency shutoff on a machine.
  3. You do not have to operate a machine without proper guarding or be forced to disable any emergency shutoff.
  4. Even if they tell you the guarding is in the shop being repaired or will be here soon, do not operate that piece of equipment.

Once we have the saw blade, belts, and other moving parts fitted for guards we will have another violation licked and another step in saving Santa’s workshop.  Tomorrow: On the Third Day.

Will this be enough to fix this ticket let alone save Santa’s workshop?  Find out tomorrow.  On the Second Day.

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The TopTen OSHA Violations Before Christmas. On the First Day

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Santa received a notice of violation( 1926.102) lack of PPE – Eye and Face Protection. This is #10 on OSHA’s TopTen violations for 2019.

The industrial revolution provided us with many great inventions of machinery.  Machinery is great because it helps to do the jobs of drilling, sanding, polishing, cutting, shaping, bending a lot easier and more efficiently.  However, as most machines do, they are also loud and noisy when used which creates a new set of problems.

As you can see, the elf busy drilling holes is not wearing any PPE.  In this environment, how many kinds of PPE should the elves be wearing?  At least,

  1. Safety goggles or face shield – Prevents the wood chips from the drilling entering your eye creating serious sight issues or from hitting your face.
  2. Dust mask – Prevents you from inhaling wood sawdust into your lungs.
  3. Earplugs or other hearing protection – Prevents the loud noises from damaging your ears and hearing.

Can you think of any other PPE?  Will this be enough to fix this ticket let alone save Santa’s workshop?  Find out tomorrow.  On the Second Day.

 

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The Hawaiian Shirt Rebellion

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Some times the best way to improve morale in a company is with a subversive action especially if it just ever so slightly breaks a rule and has been coordinated with the entire staff.

Our family-owned company had recently been bought by a large corporation.  We were their new shining addition to the family and after a long grueling process of upgrading our systems and intercommunications, we learned the new rules of the road.  New training, new reports, new programs, new ways of doing things and new dress code.  Morale was very low and our new corporate masters were not seeing it at all and just kept pushing without stopping even for a second so we could catch our breath. 

The leaders of the resistance were all young professionals in their late 20’s to early ’30s. Even though we each worked in a different department, (engineering, maintenance, production, quality control, and facilities) we had become pretty tight over the years not only because we were close in age but our eclectic mix of personalities worked so well and our positions naturally had us working together to resolve production issues.  We also went to ballgames after work together, Oakland A’s were only a few BART stations away and we shared drinks on Fridays to celebrate our victories and console our loses that week.  

Even though the statute of limitations has long expired I still will not reveal the other members of the resistance but admit that I was one of the members.  On one particular Friday, while drinking and complaining, it came up that July 1st was around the corner and the beginning of the new fiscal year.  What could we do to celebrate the occasion and help break up the funk at work and get morale back to where it needed to be.  There was a definite correlation between the number of drinks consumed and the innovation and creativity of ideas put forward by the group.  Silliness turned to anger and then anger back again to silliness.  The drinks and hours went by until we broke for the night and our weekend.

Monday morning seemingly came around too fast and at our morning break, we again went over our plan to make sure this is the statement we wanted to make.  The six of us talking just above whispers and constantly looking over our shoulders so no one else could hear us or most importantly know we were behind what was about to happen.  We thought a strategic strike against the new dress code would get a smile out of almost everyone.  Previously there was no dress code except the unwritten rule of, when we had visitors at the plant we had to wear slacks and a button shirt and now we had to dress that way every day.  They wouldn’t even listen to having a dress down Friday.  We swore our allegiance to each other after the break and each put their part of the plan into play.

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The fake memo was completed by one member and the copies made late at night by another and I came in extremely early to place memos directly on the employees desk.  The company leadership such as the President, VP’s and Plant Manager were left off the distribution list.  The memo on the usual company letterhead was plain and simple.  A picture of a Hawaiian shirt and the following,  “To Celebrate the new fiscal year, Friday has been declared as Hawaiian shirt day!  Wear your best Hawaiian shirt and be ready to party.”

The rest of the week we monitored all gossip and conversations to make sure this was still a secret, really going to happen and be a pleasant surprise for all.  Friday came and we met in the employee lot, donning our Hawaiian shirts and to no surprise, all of us had brought a backup outfit just in case it really went south as we had no idea what kind of participation we would get from the rest of the staff.  People sounded excited about the idea but would it carry all week?  We huddled, put our hands in and shouted, “GO HAWAII”!  

The six of us walked in together to meet our destiny, but were stopped in our tracks by our dropped jaws and were totally blown away!  Not only did most of the staff arrive wearing Hawaiian shirts, but the rest had brought them and changed into them here.  Some really embraced the spirit of the day and were wearing leis or playing ukeleles and a few had plastic blow-up palm trees and one surfboard.  Then there was a sound coming from the lunchroom that we hadn’t heard in a while.  Laughter.  People were laughing, talking, smiling and enjoying themselves. WE did it! 

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Then the inquisition came. Our VP of Human Resources was a particularly special stick in the mud.  No sense of humor, no jokes, no laughs and extremely pompous.  If you had the misfortune of a meeting with him they always took twice as long as with anyone else since he constantly took phone calls during the meeting so you can add rude to the list as well.  Our VP of HR began his investigation into Hawaiigate and seek out the culprit or culprits responsible!  First, the usual suspects’ were interrogated and then other people were summoned to the office and asked, “Where did this memo come from?”  They all answered as we hoped, it was on my desk when I arrived.  Each member of the resistance was also called into his office, one at a time and asked if we knew or heard anything?  We all responded in kind, as shocked as he was that this could happen but had no clue as to who.

Mr. VP of HR eventually gave up his witch hunt and no one was ever punished for the crime but a flurry of new policies followed along with the consequences for future infractions of HR law. The President of the company actually loved the Hawaiian shirt idea so much,  every Friday was now a dress-down day and the second Friday of each month was a different themed employee day. 

Sometimes the only way to shake a culture up is with a little internal rebellion.   

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A Complete Guide To Warehouse Safety -Volume 2 – PPE

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Dorothy was still not sure what had just happened or any clue about the dead inspector but she knew she wanted out of this nightmare and to be back home so finding this head of OSHA sounded like the best way right now. So she set out on the green brick road hoping to make it to the Emerald city.  After walking along the road for what seemed like hours she was beginning to regret not paying more attention at the safety meetings at work.  If only I had listened maybe I wouldn’t be in this predicament, but maybe I’ll wake up soon and this will be over but the pain coming from her feet because the ruby steel toed boots were rubbing convinced her this was, oh my, could this, could this be for real?

She saw a large boulder on the side of the road and decided to take a break from walking and to feel sorry for herself.  I can’t believe this?  Why didn’t I listen?  I could have been in the shelter and done but no, I had to be, Ms. oh that will never happen to me. “Go figure, huh.”  Dorothy jumped right up and turned around, who was that?  The voice echoed back, “it’s me.”  Who? I can’t see you, come out of the bushes.  “I would if I could but I’m done here in a hole.”  Dorothy peeked over the boulder and could see a fairly good sized hole in the ground.  How’d you get in there?  “I’m not really sure. We were suppose to do some confined space work for the Emerald city public works, somewhere I blacked out and woke up, in here all alone.”  “I know I was suppose to wear a harness with a cable attached so they could pull me out quickly if they had too.  But they didn’t have one and they said that was o.k. this time.  Then I was suppose to wear a respirator before I climbed in, just in case there were any hazardous gases or vapors present, but they didn’t have one and they said that was o.k. this time.  I was suppose to wear a bump camp to protect my head just in case rocks and debris feel in, but they didn’t have one and they said that o.k. this time.”  O.k. I get it, Dorothy responded, you didn’t get any PPE to wear.  “PPE?  No, they didn’t have a bump cap.”  O.K!  What”s your name  “They call me Scarecrow because of my blonde hair and I’m kind of scatterbrained.  I know the right thing to do but tend to lose focus and veer off track and forget.”  Dorothy finally worked up the courage to get closer to the hole in the ground to get a view of Scarecrow.

She peered in, my name is Dorothy.  “Hi”, he said as he waved up to her.  “What are you doing way out here.”  I’m on my way to see the head of OSHA in the Emerald city.  I heard he may be able to help get me home.  “Oh, are you far from home?”  Yes, yes I am, very far from home.  Hey, maybe the head guy can get you the PPE you need so you don’t wind up in a hole alone again?  Do you want to go?  “That sounds great Dorothy, but first I think I need to get out of this hole so I can accompany you.”  Great idea.  She looked around and found what looked like an old ladder that was pretty busted up but should help the Scarecrow climb out of the hole.  When he finally emerged, Dorothy noticed that he was a mess.  He had fingers missing, scars all over and his clothes were ripped and disheveled.  He had been in the hole for such a long time he had trouble standing up and would flop but the two of them were determined to continue their journey on the Green Brick Road of Safety to find the head of OSHA so Dorothy could go home and Scarecrow could get some much needed PPE.

In Volume 1-Begin With Basics, Dorothy began her trip down the Green Brick Road with a job safety analysis, which showed us the types of hazard present and where they’re located.  With this information you can determine what kind of PPE is needed to give further protection to employees as they carry out their daily routines.  

PPE stands for Personal Protection Equipment (Designed to protect workers from serious workplace injuries or illnesses resulting from contact with chemical, radiological, physical, electrical, mechanical or other workplace hazards).

 

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A Knight’s armor can be considered PPE since the job description includes protecting his King and the realm from enemies which usually included a battle and hand to hand fighting.  His PPE had to help protect him from swords, lances and arrows the best it could so he could continue doing his job and save the kingdom.  However you must make sure the PPE is a appropriate for the conditions where the work is to be performed.  One of the problems with armor was the weight and if a knight was knocked off his horse in a river or lake, they usually drowned.  PPE is to protect you and in no way should be the death of you.  The same would also apply to an athlete getting ready for a football game whether American Football or Soccer.  The equipment worn, shin guards, shoulder pads and helmets are a type of PPE as they give protection needed to play the game but as we’ve seen and heard of late, current helmets are giving inadequate protection and need to be greatly improved to protect players brains.

Apply this thinking to those hazards you located and intersect with the employee.  What added protection will keep them from injury or long term disability.  Usually a safety professional would handle this like the hazard analysis however knowledge is for everyone and all employees, whether management or worker should be aware of why or what PPE may be needed.  You can begin with the five senses, protecting sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste.

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EYES/SAFETY GLASSES – Sight is a critical sense that needs to be protected at all times in a manufacturing environment especially if employees work in areas where machinery can create flying debris, hot sparks, saw dust and metal shavings.  Safety glasses with side shields or goggles are a good choice.  When corrosive liquids or other chemicals are involved you want to avoid splashes to the face, a face shield would help greatly.  Of late safety eye ware has become a lot more stylish, with colors and shapes.  Remember you want employees to use these items so encourage them and allow a few different choices as long as they are properly rated for the job.

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EARS/HEARING PROTECTION – Hearing is another crucial sense to protect, especially since hearing loss can be gradual over time and not as immediately noticeable like loss of sight.  If you’re working an 8 hour shift in an environment where the noise level is 85dB or higher and you are not consistently wearing ear plugs or ear muffs, you will suffer irreversible damage to your hearing.  Ear plugs are available as daily disposable types that conform to the shape of your ear canal but before you roll them with your fingers to insert make sure your hands are clean or you could inadvertently give yourself an ear infection.  Permanent ear plugs specifically molded for your ears by a professional are also a great way to go. Some very high noise areas, over 100dB require a combination of ear plugs and muffs and also limit the amount of exposure time in that environment. When you take decibel readings to see what PPE is required, make sure to have all machinery running as well as other necessary equipment to get a true sense of the level of noise.  

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HANDS/GLOVESThere are many types of gloves available for just about any application you can think of, made of non-latex, rubber, plastic, leather and synthetic materials.  Moving and handling cartons or wooden pallets you want gloves that fit well an that give you a very good grip as well as protect from splinters.  If your job includes using sharp blades, cutting instruments or other tools there are gloves made from kevlar that prevent lacerations to your hand.  There are gloves that protect you from acid & chemical burns and other corrosive materials as well as thermal gloves for use in extreme temperatures.  Just make sure the glove you issue is rated for the task at hand, are comfortable and flexible to easy digit manipulation.  Gloves can be expensive so make sure you establish a policy of always exchanging a worn pair for new and how many pairs a month you’ll issue to employees who just can’t seem to hold on to a pair for very long.

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LUNGS/DUST MASKS & RESPIRATORS – Areas of the facility where heavy dust, smoke, gas vapors, paint fumes or other harsh toxins are a result of or part of the production process are completed, employees will need some sort of protection.  Whether you’ll only need to use a simple dust mask, respirator or fully contained system depends on the amount of contaminant particles in the air and their toxicity.  In any case the protection will not be sufficient if the item does not fit flush on your face with no gaps around the mask.  With respirators and other systems make sure to place them on a maintenance schedule to ensure they’ll fully operate when needed, especially if they are stored and used for emergency purposes only.

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HEAD/BUMP-CAP -Sometimes employees have to work in cramped spaces or under low hanging obstacles like pipes to make repairs or adjustments to machinery.  To prevent scalp lacerations, concussions and head penetration injuries a bump cap is a good choice. A good way to get workers to wear them consistently is to allow caps with different sports team logos.  A tip for those working around moving machine parts and belts with long hair, it is highly recommended that staff tie up and cover to protect it to prevent hair being caught and you pulled into the machinery.  

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FEET/LEG PROTECTION – You’re probably on you feet during most of the shift so you want shoes that not only protect your feet but offer support and are comfortable. Again as with other PPE the type of footwear you use depends on the environment you’re working in.  On the loading dock where there is forklift traffic, pallets, tailgates, dock levelers, dock workers wear steel tipped shoes to prevent crushed toes and broken bones.  If you work in a cold warehouse you want shoes that keep your feet warm and help prevent slips and falls.  If you work with chemicals, corrosive liquids and acids you want long boots that protect your feet if those items happen to spill.

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ADVERSE CONDITIONS & OTHER ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS – Imagine putting yourself inside a washer machine that’s in the middle of a hot warehouse and then having to make repairs to the washer while inside.  That’s what working inside a confined space can feel like. You’re totally enclosed except for a tiny portal. There is not much air movement, it’s hot and dark and there may be lingering toxic gases trapped inside.  Part of PPE are the apparatus, in this case a vest and tether attached to a winch,   that can get you out of that confined space if an emergency was to present itself.   The same goes for fall protection with a vest and safety line that is anchored to a solid fixture so you don’t plummet to the ground.  

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Whether you stand near by and get a blast of heat and fumes as molten metals are poured into molds or picking customer orders for hours at sub zero temperatures inside a giant freezer.  In every case, make sure you do the job using only the proper PPE. It can be a matter of life or death.  Remember, PPE will not work if proper training isn’t given as an accompaniment and you should always be shown how to use and how to wear it properly and understand its limitations and how to maintain it. Training is the key for any successful safe workplace and there is never an excuse for not holding at least a monthly safety meeting as well as encourage the participation of staff on safety committees. Thank you for joining Dorothy on this journey down the Green Brick Road of Safety.  There is still some distance to go. 

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