Just Putting It Out There – Leadership The Glue That Binds it All.

Luke Walton & Steve Kerr

Luke Walton & Steve Kerr

You do everything you can to protect your employees at the workplace.  You take all the necessary steps by beginning with a hazard analysis to identify potential dangers and eliminate them, you buy the best and latest styles in PPE so employees will wear them, you make housekeeping a priority and keep a neat and organized facility that looks professional and reduces trips and falls.  You have training classes and drills for any emergency whether medical, natural or man-made that you may encounter, keeping everyone prepared so they know what to do to survive.  You have weekly tailgate/toolbox meetings and a monthly safety meeting on a consistent basis. With all this effort and energy put into keeping your employees safe as you all try to walk down the “Green Brick Road of Safety”, is there really anything else that can be done to enhance their safety?  Yes, there is one more thing you can add that will help immensely and it’s staring right at you in the mirror.  It’s called Coaching/Leadership.  I will be using the term coach/coaching for convenience but you can just as well use leader/leadership.  After working for a company where shift managers were called coaches and workers were called players along with my love of sports, I happen to like the term “coach” much better.

The Golden State Warriors won the NBA Championship with basically the same personnel on the floor they had when they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs a year earlier.  They had assembled the talent and components needed to win and lord knows they had the fan base.  The only significant change to the team from last season was the coach and his staff.  You know the results, Steve Kerr (pictured above) earned his first NBA Championship and I’m here to say to you, you can have the greatest player in the world on your team, but without great coaching/leadership your team won’t achieve the goal. 

That’s why coaching goes well beyond training.  When training an employee you are teaching them a specific skill set, a routine or procedure like how to drive a forklift, how to properly lift a box, or how to handle a liquid spill.  However when coaching you’re building people into great employees by communicating positive feedback on performance improving their self-esteem, building confidence and increasing their knowledge so they are successful at accomplishing their assigned tasks and goals.  I believe the seasoned operator knows his machine better than anyone else, in fact some really good ones know just by the sound how well it’s running.  Some companies allow only maintenance personnel to make adjustments or change overs on machinery.  I find this can waste time as maintenance personnel can often be tied up on several planned projects while trying to put out many fires.  We were allowed to experiment on our shift since I wouldn’t shut-up about it and by allowing the machine operators to make those adjustments and change overs to their machines we experienced an increase in our production numbers and a drastic reduction in down time.  The workers were given an opportunity to have a voice and feel good about being part of the solution and that happens when the coach listens.

Bruce Bochy - S.F. Giants

Bruce Bochy – S.F. Giants

Coaching corrects behavior or performance issues without the threat of punishment which should only be used as a last resort.  A coach sets the standard of ethics and morals that everyone in the facility will be following when it comes to safety, performance, professionalism and how to treat and respond to each other.  A coach sets the level of tolerance for infractions and consequences geared to help the employee improve not just fail again. A coach does not allow employees to engage in horseplay or distracting behavior of any kind while working but gives time to talk and provides a means to blow off steam and reward their efforts.  A coach is an advocate for their employees and shows them, “Yes, they can do it” when helping them learn a new skill and improving their ability to earn more income and a coach makes sure they themselves always sets an example for all.

As in any sport or job a coach makes sure you’re prepared for the upcoming match and ready to execute the game plan with the man power, equipment and supplies required.  A coach begins each work day with a morning huddle to keep you informed, focused and motivated so you’re confident to; elevate your level of performance.   A good coach knows that they need to counsel employees in private, praise them in public, brag about them to the upper brass and to engage staff, listen to their feedback which can result in growth and continuous improvement for them as well as yourself.  Above all a great coach knows to always say thank you for a job well done.

A coach creates and sustains a culture and atmosphere that is conducive for learning and where employees can feel free to ask questions and freely engage in the exchange of ideas on workplace safety, improved equipment maintenance or in obtaining better production results without fear of ridicule.  I’ve seen the other side of the coin in one plant I worked. The department manager couldn’t figure out why we were having certain production issues and never bothered to engage the staff or listen as he would shoot down every idea as “stupid” or “that’ll never work” and then dismissed everyone by putting them down like they were idiots.  He never could see the answers because he closed off communication and began to blame others for the problems.  It was killing moral, production was dropping, sick calls increased and it made for a bad situation which led to bickering between him and other department managers that were also affected right on the production floor for everyone to watch.

A coach delivers timely tailgate/toolbox meetings, interesting monthly safety meetings that involves the staff in presentations.  The coach should almost always direct his team from the playing field itself and not issue commands entrenched in an office behind their desk. A coach knows they need to be on the floor so they can encourage, critique, answer questions as well as observe and document the good along with the bad to develop and offer obtainable goals and objectives to help you grow and retain these employees you’ve developed but even then there is no guarantee they’ll stay as great head coaches from successful NFL teams tend to spawn future head coaches for other NFL teams.  That in itself can be very satisfying.

Whether you are a manufacturer of red ruby slippers or a flying monkey pet food distributor while you lead your company down the “Green Brick Road of Safety” and the Scarecrow forgets to wear his PPE, or the Tin Man has a hazardous liquid spill or the Lion frets about training on a new piece of equipment and the accident prone Wicked Witch creates havoc on the shop floor, don’t bother looking for the man behind the screen as you can always spot the coach on the floor. They’re the one looking cool, collected, assessing the situation, reassuring and encouraging everyone and keeps things going without so much as skipping a beat.  So you see the COACH is the glue. 

Golden State Warriors - 2014-2015 NBA Champions

Golden State Warriors – 2014-2015 NBA Champions


5 Steps For a Successful Peak Season – STEP 1

It’s the beginning of August, those lovely dog days of summer, it’s hot, it’s slow at work and folks are away on vacations. However this is not the time to kick back and relax since before you know it, the seasonal rush for goods and services will be upon you and your warehouse will be fully engaged as the home entertaining season begins with Halloween and then right on through Thanksgiving to Christmas and the New Year. Will you be ready to handle those peak season orders? Chances are if you don’t already have a plan or working on one right now you may not be prepared to keep those service levels your customers are expecting.

When business peaks you will be challenged by staffing issues, storage space limitations, increased number of orders to process, increased demands on equipment usage all while maintaining worker safety and sanitation standards. It sounds like a lot to deal with but this all can be handled expertly and professionally. First let’s break this down into steps and examine each one more closely.


This is when having established a great rapport with your sales and marketing departments comes in handy. You can always get a good idea on the projections of units to be sold or manufactured during the peak season from them. Also find out what seasonal products will be available during this period and the duration, what other pricing specials and the anticipated movement as well as any other promos or combination promos or brand new items. Some customers like and are offered to buy mixed pallets of goods for promotions. A great example for around the holidays would be a promotion with a mixed pallet of light brown, dark brown and powered sugars, or in the summer a mix of catsup, mustard and pickle relish. This is important since you’ll need to plan on labor to build the projected number of pallets needed. If you’re not on a sales/marketing distribution list just ask to be added.

Now you can begin to determine your staffing needs and whether you may be able to handle the seasonal rush by going with your current staffing level and working extra hours or shifts. This is not a bad solution but be careful not to push people to far as increased work hours can lead to fatigue and an increased number of accidents. Another issue to consider if you do go this route is the tendency to sacrifice housekeeping and sanitation when it gets busy. Don’t allow it to happen since it’ll become another thorn as again the incident of accidents can increase due to trips and falls. Also consider the increased hours of usage on the equipment and the associated maintenance and charging times. Nothing worse than people standing around because the equipment is down or charging.

However, if you decide you do need additional staffing, first determine what jobs are they going to do? Picking orders, packaging, replenishments, sweep? Speak to your regular staff and get their input on where help would be most beneficial. How much training do you want to do and how. What skill level do you want in the workers? Using a temporary employment agency to place seasonal employees will greatly help with staffing but don’t put all your eggs in one basket and work with at least 2 different agencies. Get to know your representatives at the temp agency and invite them to a tour of your facility so they can see first hand the various kinds of jobs and working conditions. Make sure to give a very thorough job description along with percentages of bending, stooping, standing, and so on in a typical 8 hour day along with the estimated weights of items that will be handled. Also supply the temp agency a copy of your safety standards that all your employees get during orientation, and other policies on attendance, tardiness and any tools or equipment including PPE like steel toe shoes that are required. Also ask to see what kind of safety training they offer their temps. Some just show a video and some a video followed by a multiple choice question test. It’s not the greatest engaging safety training but you can build on what they offer. Think what kind of previous experience would make them attractable for you and will there be opportunity to offer them regular employee status at any point? Be sure to track any issues that may arise with temporary employees, their response on issues, turnover rate, quality of employee, attendance and did they deliver on the number of people you requested and were promised? You can use these items as a report card to measure that agencies performance and justify whether you want to continue doing business or not.

You can also make training easy by putting everything together now, while it’s slow season and practice on your staff and make sure to listen to their feedback. We’ll go deeper into training in a later step.

I’ve used both methods in dealing with seasonal peaks, separately and at times little of both. Just be prepared for everything and anything when using temporary employees. Even though most agencies do a fantastic job of screening applicant’s sometimes a real pill will get by. I came in one morning and a temp worker was immediately pointed out to me since he was taking an incredible amount of time picking one order. I pulled him aside and after speaking with him realized he was very inebriated and to my surprise he admitted it. I thanked him for being honest and politely declined his offer to have a snort. Since he had no car I sent him home in a cab with his bicycle in the trunk and billed the Agency for it.

Next installment STEP II – STORAGE

The 12 Signs Your Company May Be a Serial Killer


You are very proud of yourself and you should be.  You just survived the entire hiring process beginning with; searching the web for a job, sent in your polished resume, interviews, more interviews and finally, it’s your first day on the job and you’re in the Human Resources office filling out your W’s, who to contact in case of an emergency and many more forms galore.  As your day continues you are barraged with new names, introductions and restroom location but what else do you know about this company?  There is no current app to check the number of stars the company has earned for safety or a comments section by employees.  Do you know what their history is?  How many accidents have they had this year?  How do they respond to incidents?   As you settle into your new job routine or have been on the job for some time, this list will assist you to identify if your company could be a serial killer.

Your company could be a serial killer if…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA -You’re beaming with pride as you’re shown to your new work station and you can’t wait to get started until you suddenly notice that the emergency exit door is blocked and padlocked shut.

-Your assignment for today is to assist on repairs of the roof/tower or another high point at the facility. Upon arriving there you find there are no safety harnesses or other fall protection gear yet everyone is standing around impatiently staring at you waiting to see if you have the balls to ask for safety equipment, “Well, what you waiting for?  Afraid of heights?”

-During your employee orientation and training the word “safety” is only mentioned once in reference to proper carry of a firearm at work.

-When you ask about the Lock Out Tag Out program you’re told it’s a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.  Don’t ever, never, stop production and don’t even bother asking. It’s all on the fly here, you’ll get used to it.


-Management orders the removal of the safety screen or machine guards to speed up production to ensure the boss’ bonus and a new car.  For your trouble, you get a frozen turkey while you heal and continue physical therapy.

-Today’s task is to climb into a confined space and told, not sure what was in there before but it doesn’t smell too bad now, oh, since you’ll be on your own, try to be careful.

-Working at one of the 42 U.S. Postal Service sites found to have serious violations of electrical work practices by OSHA or exposed to the hazard of working in the heat without an adequate heat stress management program.

-Your company asks for a price increase so they can enhance gas pipe safety for the community and improve productivity but instead uses the money for executive bonuses and somehow loses the pipe maps.

-Your company begins running a television ad campaign that it’s now a safe operating company and its workers are family oriented folks too, just like those 8 people killed in the community your company blew-up. A double concern when the PUC is an accomplice.



-You find there is no formal certification process for forklift drivers but there is an informal rating for “freestyle”.  Your assignment today is to retrieve old parts from the highest warehouse rack while standing on a wooden pallet with no fall prevention harness or tether and then your driver walks off for his break.

-Today you get to work in what the employees affectionately refer to as the gas chamber.   A room is full of unmarked and unknown containers of various chemicals.  Oh, by the way, the ventilation system is on the fritz but should be safe as long as you don’t allow any two liquids mix.

-The giant “Number of days without an accident” sign at the main entrance has a 0 written in permanent marker.

Wear Your Green Safety Pin warehouseflow.com

Wear Your Green Safety Pin

You do not have to tolerate unsafe working conditions. Don’t ever keep quiet about safety and continue to be part of the problem.  If your company doesn’t respond to your safety concerns and you’ve spoken to your supervisor, union rep and H.R. make an anonymous call to OSHA. 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).  Why put your valuable life at risk so someone else can put a few extra bucks in their pocket.  Remember the life that you save may be your own.


Companies Behaving Badly – Dad Health Day



Men, we begin simply as “snips and snails and puppy dog’s tails” until we morph into Men and June happens to be men’s health month and it’s to remind men that your health is in your hands as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer are all preventable and/or treatable when detected.  I understand, you’d rather stop and ask for directions than see your doctor but you can improve on the 77.4 year average life expectancy in the U.S. by eating right, (more fruits and vegetables and less steak and potatoes) exercise, (reaching for the remote control doesn’t count) and don’t put off discussing any issues you may experience with your doctor.

In fact, did you know that four of the top 5 man killers are, #1 Heart disease, #2 Cancer, #4 Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and #5 Stroke!  I’ve saved the number 3 killer for last, Accidents!  Men, seriously!  We go through all of these life style changes, exercise routines and medical tests to avoid killers 1,2,4 and 5 from doing us in only to go climb out on a three story building roof without any fall protection gear! Instead of taking the time to do a proper LOTO because you’re in a rush you’d rather just climb into the belly of a piece of machinery to make an adjustment, “don’t worry it’ll only take a minute”!  You give up smoking so you can instead fill your lungs inhaling silica dust because you don’t look cool in a dust mask!  Do you see the problem here?  A little hypocritical?  Or should we just say men’s health is an oxymoron?  Tell you what, let’s ALL work together to eliminate Men’s killer #3.  We don’t need donations, we don’t need hundreds of scientist researching for hours, we just need YOU to work safe, wear the proper PPE, wear fall protection, always perform LOTO and question any potential hazards you see and then you can spend more time with your loved ones. I guess since we’re talking about accidents, this unfortunately must be another episode of Companies Behaving Badly.

                                 HAPPY FATHER’S DAY

                  My Dad          witzshared.com

My Dad


OSHA levels $130,700 in penalties on two Kyle Field contractors over death of worker – PREVENTABLE – Angel Garcia a 25 year old worker, trusted the fact that his employer, Lindamood Demolition wouldn’t let him use a skid-steer loader that wasn’t approved for the task he was performing.  That is until the 3,340 pound concrete stub an employee of Texas Cutting & Coring was cutting, tipped over the loader due to the excessive weight and fell 70 feet, ejecting Angel from the loader.  He died later that day at the hospital.  Both companies failed to provide employees with safe demolition procedures despite concerns from workers and for this both companies were hit with Willful violations and Lindamood placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.   Casey Perkins, OSHA’s area director said, “This disregard for worker safety is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”  As I’ve said before fines are nice, but some management people should be in a jail cell.  Always check the weight capacity any piece of equipment can handle safely before operating it.  Don’t let anyone tell you it’s o.k. to exceed that limit.

OSHA cites company in workers’ deaths – PREVENTABLE – Timothy Lang, a 53 year old construction worker who loved his vegetable garden and decorating for the holidays died on site while his coworker Scott Winkler, a 50 years old family man with 5 children and who enjoyed the outdoors died several days later in the hospital after a concrete wall that was not properly braced fell on them.  A third worker Rafael Zakota, 37 sustained injuries that will heal but the memory of this accident will be with him for the rest of his life.  Halmar International their employer was hit with 2 serious violations one of which occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have know.  Since this was a mock up site to get ready for the actually project my guess is the company tried to save money by omitting the needed supports.  Again, this is a time where the person in charge should be facing murder charges.

OSHA investigating fatal grain mill accident – PREVENTABLE – On a cool, beautiful early Tuesday morning at Great Falls Montana Specialty Mills, Barry Ladd died as he bled out after having lost his leg when he stepped in an auger.  The accident is currently under investigation but records show that Specialty Mills was found to have 7 safety violations in a 2012 routine inspection by OSHA that resulted in a $24,000 fine.  Two of the violations involved protective coverings of floor holes and revolving parts.  The others involved floor cleanliness, electrical equipment and protocol for working in confined spaces.  All sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.  You shouldn’t have to remember where all the holes in the floor are.  They must be properly marked and made safe enough for you to get the job done without falling or an amputation.

MA Steel fabrication shop cited after worker crushed PREVENTABLE – A 46 year old worker at Boston Bridge & Steel Company had trusted that his employer had properly secured the 12,000 pound steel arch beam he was assigned to paint.  As he worked, probably thinking about the upcoming holidays, the 6 ton arch fell on him and crushed him to death. OSHA found that his trust was misplaced as Boston Bridge failed to make sure the beam and 3 others like it, were not properly braced to prevent falling.  Have you ever seen how a pilot does a walk around his jet as part of a pre-check?  He knows that his company has some of the best talented mechanics in the world taking care of that jet, but he knows that “stuff” can happen.  So as an added safety measure, he walks and looks.  Before you work on any project you should take the few minutes to do the same.

OSHA Cites Chicago Company for Repeat Violations PREVENTABLE – Pan-Oceanic Engineering Company in Chicago is either very arrogant or just very stupid as they were cited for a second time this year for failing to protect workers in trenches from cave-in hazards. They were given a willful violation which in plain english means they knew they were putting workers in danger and couldn’t care less.  Think about what it’s must be like to work for a company that doesn’t care if you are buried alive and suffocate.  Warming isn’t it?  They were also cited for a serious violation after someone found evidence of a potential cave-in and did nothing about it.  For all this they were only fined $147,000 and placed under the Severe Violator Enforcement Program.  In fact, according to OSHA since 2003 they have been cited multiple times for violations of trenching standards and why they’re allowed to continue one wonders.

Lincolnshire firm ECO Plastics Ltd fined £12,500 after employee hit by reversing forklift truck – PREVENTABLE – Robin Eddom, a 63 year old engineer who worked at ECO Plastics Ltd. was just trying to get through the waste processing building but couldn’t use the pedestrian walkway as he was trained to because it was blocked with building materials and equipment while construction work was going on.  He had trusted that the company had warned their forklift drivers to watch for pedestrians due to the blocked walkway, but he was hit by a reversing forklift and suffered severe injuries.  The company had no problem allowing employees and moving forklifts share the same route and for what ever reason never thought to redirect traffic or detour pedestrians to another route.  No warning, no signage or anything.  As they say, just an accident waiting to happen.  When ever any change occurs in the workplace, whether installation of a new piece of equipment, production lines or even a temporary change, look around and see if there are any newly created safety issues and don’t assume all the employees will no what to do on their own.  Communicate!

OSHA Cites Contractor for Exposing Workers to Fall Hazards – PREVENTABLEIt’s even happening in my home town, the Bronx, as Kay Waterproofing Corporation was cited by OSHA for 13 serious violations at their worksite of a residential building in Edgewater, New Jersey.  Not only were they cited for exposing workers to fall and scaffolding hazards but failed to provide eye protection and hard hats for falling debris and cutting of masonry.  They also didn’t ensure equipment had electrical grounding pins and not properly guarded.  Isn’t is great when companies show the love?  They are now facing a proposed fine of $66,600.



Missoula store facing OSHA fines – PREVENTABLE – You can’t always judge a book by it’s name, but in this case Dollar Tree Stores seems to spend only that much on safety as several of their stores throughout the country have been found to be willfully exposing workers to safety hazards, which means customers are at risk as well.  At this location in Missoula, Mt. an employee filed a complaint with OSHA because they were rightfully concerned with the blocked emergency exit routes, the storage of materials in unstable and unsecured means and the use of space around electrical equipment for storage. Usually an employee calls OSHA as a last resort since their expressed concerns fall on management’s deaf ears.  For their lack of effort, Dollar was hit with a fine of $217,000 for putting their valuable assets at risk.

OSHA cites Flambeau River Papers for failing to protect workers from toxic sulfur dioxide vapors – PREVENTABLEAccording to OSHA, Flambeau River Papers routinely exposed workers to sulfur dioxide vapors which can cause numerous adverse effects to the respiratory tract and led to 8 violations, including failing to document safe operating limits and to comply with good engineering practices for equipment as well as failing to conduct an annual audit of the LOTO procedures for a total of $42,300.  You can breath deeper now.

Turkey’s Building Boom Takes Toll on Worker Safety – PREVENTABLE – Sad, but falls at construction sites is not just a problem in the United States as 3 workers in Turkey were killed as the scaffolding they were depending on collapsed. You can read about the issues their construction workers are facing.

Games teach Missoula teens importance of workplace safety – TRAINING – Teaching teens about workplace safety before they become part of the workforce is a great idea and hopefully will pay off with fewer accidents down the road.

After working in a warehouse, thrice-suspended Redskins S Jackson thankful for another chance – UPDATE – Who said working in a warehouse was easy?  Ask Redskins Safety Tanard Jackson who wouldn’t go into detail about his warehouse job, but it was enough to jar him into making what he called a “lifestyle change” to keep from reverting to old habits.

Clearwater Paper’s North Las Vegas Tissue Facility Achieves OSHA VPP Star Status – HURRAY – Clearwater Paper Corporation received the Nevada OSHA’s highest level of recognition offered by the agency’s Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) as Star status. Clearwater Paper now becomes one of only nine such VPP sites in the state of Nevada.  Congratulations!

On that last note, that my friends, brings this episode of Companies Behaving Badly to a close.  As always, thank you for taking time out of your busy day to stop by and feel free to use any of these topics for your next safety tailgate/toolbox meeting.  Before operating any forklift, tugger, excavator always check the manufacturers plate on the equipment to see what the weight capacity it can safely handle is.  Don’t let anyone tell you it’s o.k. to exceed the limit on the plate, there is no fudge room built in.  Don’t operate any machinery that has been modified from normal use without the consent, approval and assistance of the manufacturer.  If the manufacturers weight plate is missing or unreadable report it immediately to management. Always do a walk around the equipment for any signs of leaks or distress before starting. Never operate any machinery you are not trained or checked out on.  Above all, report any issues that affect safe operation of any equipment immediately!  Remember, we’ve working to eliminate Man Killer #3 and together we can do this.  Hope to see you all here Next month.

The Eyes of March


                                                   March is Workplace Eye Wellness Month.

Sight is one of your critical five senses that needs to be protected at all times while on the job since if you were to lose it, chances are you may never get it back again. Employees that work in areas where there is a continuous amount of dust, particles or other debris in the air should wear at least safety glasses or goggles as part of their regular PPE.

Canadian centre of Occupational health & safety

Canadian centre of OHS




For those of us who wear prescription glasses, they can be made to work like the above just make sure they are shatterproof lenses and have side shields to fully protect your eyes.  




faceshield                                                                                                                                                                                                                          When there is the possibility of large size flying fragments or sparks or chemicals are poured and can splash, workers should be fitted for a face shield.  






There should also be an eyewash station located in the area you work where the conditions mentioned above exist especially when chemicals or other caustic materials are handled.  The eyewash station and/or shower should be only steps away from your workstation.

    plumbing supply.com

plumbing supply.com

In the event, something does get into your eyes don’t rub them with your hands but immediately go to the eyewash station and begin flushing your eyes.  Get as much water in them as possible even hold your eyelids open with your fingers to accomplish and then continue flushing for a good 15 minutes even if the pain stops or subsides before that time elapses.  Meanwhile, while you’re flushing your eyes have a fellow worker contact the supervisor and/or the emergency response team if your company has one, so you can receive further treatment for your eyes whether on or off-site.  This is not a time to be a hero.  Please also add the eyewash station to your monthly walk around and make sure it is always fully operational.

The use of PPE (personal protective equipment) whether to protect your eyes, hearing or your body is extremely important and there is NO good excuse not to use PPE on a regular basis.  There are several ways to make sure this point gets across to all workers on the job.


Training:  Safety training is an important tool to combat complacency with wearing protective gear as it helps to keep safety in their minds and thoughts continually.  Don’t skip or skimp on safety meetings, whatever your company policy or practice.  You can make the training more interesting by involving staff in presentations or have a guest speaker from your insurance company, safety professional or another department head.  You can also keep reinforcing safety with tailgate meetings that are are 5-10 minutes in length and can be used to address what you may have recently observed in the warehouse.

If the practice on safety at your company is lax and no one cares if you hold safety meetings or not, that is even more of a reason to have them.  Document the meetings by writing a short description of what was covered and attach it to the sign-in sheet used to document who attended the meeting.  Then keep them in a safe place since you’ll never know if or when you’ll need them down the road.  No matter how lax the company is you should never stop your vigilance on safety.  Preventing an injury is so much easier and rewarding to deal with than the regrets and “should haves” if someone was to be injured or worse.  Don’t ever let anyone deter you from keeping a safe working environment.


Discipline: No one likes to hear this word but it’s another line of defense as well.  If you don’t enforce the PPE company rules and an employee gets injured, you can be sued as well as the company.  Discipline doesn’t have to be brutal either.  If I came across an employee at the beginning of the shift not properly wearing their eye protective gear, I would remind them,  “Those are eye protectors, not forehead protectors”.  You don’t always know their day started, maybe they ran into an unexpected traffic jam, or they’re worried about the rumors of a slow down at the plant or they’re just worried about the Giants maintaining the one-game lead over the Dodgers in the standings.  If it continues just jot it down somewhere as to the time of day and where you saw them without their PPE after a stern reminder and if necessary give a verbal or written warning.  Don’t ever be quiet about safety.  Looking the other way or being a nice guy does NOT gain you points.  Do you think for one minute the injured employee’s attorney is going to go easy on you in a courtroom for not making his client wear their PPE before the accident?

Protect your employees from injury and protect yourself from liability and then no one will ever have to say they are sorry.



Like what you’ve read here.  Sign up to get every new episode of Witzshared delivered by email.  Just click.   If you would like a warehouse review just contact me.

A Complete Guide To Warehouse Safety-Volume VI-Coaching, the glue that binds it all

Steve Kerr - Golden State Warriors

Steve Kerr – Golden State Warriors

I hope this journey down the Green Brick Road of Safety has been as educational for you as it’s been  a pleasant surprise for me by the great responses from you, the readers to this series.  Thank you all.  Along this odyssey we have been introduced to many different ways of protecting employees at the workplace, beginning with the initial step, Hazard Analysis which demonstrated how to identify potential dangers to employees.  Soon after that we had PPE exhibiting the latest styles in protective wear and then Housekeeping showed the positive results of keeping a neat and organized facility.  Soon after we ran into Emergency Ready which keeps one prepared for the worst and had Good Tailgates show how to teach and inform.  So as you can see they are all equally important for a safe working warehouse, and then you wonder, with all these components in place is there still any more that can be done to keep all employees safe?  YES.  It’s called Coaching and it is the glue that binds all of these things together.

Bruce Bochy - S.F. Giants

Bruce Bochy – S.F. Giants

Coaching goes well beyond training.  When training you are teaching the employee a specific skill set, or a routine or procedure like how to drive a forklift, how to properly lift a box, or how to handle a liquid spill.  However with coaching you’re building people into great employees by improving their self esteem and their confidence.  Coaching corrects behavior or performance without threat of punishment which should only be used as a last resort.  A coach sets the standard that everyone in the warehouse/facility will be following for safety, performance, and behavior along with the levels of tolerance for infractions.  A coach does not allow employees to engage in horseplay of any kind while working but allows time to reward their efforts.  A coach is an advocate for their employees and shows them, “Yes, they can do it” when helping them learn a new skill and improving their ability to earn more income and makes sure they themselves always set an example for all.

As in any sport and at work a coach makes sure you’re prepared for the upcoming game and ready to execute the game plan.  When the work day begins a coach keeps you informed, focused and motivated to elevate your level of performance with a daily morning huddle.   A good coach knows that they need to correct employees in private, praise them in public, brag about them to the upper brass , engage staff and listen to their feedback for continuous improvement and a great coach knows to always says thank you for a job well done.



A coach creates an atmosphere conducive for learning and where employees can feel free to ask questions and engage in the exchange of ideas without fear of ridicule.  A coach delivers timely tailgates, monthly safety meetings on a regular basis, and ensures all are involved.  The coach should usually coach from the playing field and not from behind their desk.  They need to be on the floor so they can encourage, critique, answer questions as well as observe and document the good along with the bad and offer obtainable goals and objectives to grow and retain employees.  So when the Scarecrow forgets to LOTO, or the Tin Man forgets his PPE or the Lion frets training on a new piece of equipment or the accident prone Wicked Witch creates havoc the coach keeps his cool, assesses the situation, reassures everyone and keeps things going without so much as skipping a beat.  So you see the COACH is the glue. 

Folks, we’ve finally come to the end of the GREEN BRICK ROAD OF SAFETY and arrived at our destination, the safe warehouse.  It’s not hard to do if you follow all the segments shown through out the series and you make the necessary time available to do it properly.  I promise you, it will be time well spent and worth every penny.  You are not alone in making warehouse safety a priority.  They are many advocates out there and the information is free on the internet.  Become a safety advocate yourself, get involved on your company safety committee and if there isn’t one, start it!  Keep your fellow employees safe.  If you do need any help or have questions on safety, need a review or hazard analysis WarehouseFlow Consulting is there for you.  Until we meet again on our next journey.

Golden State Warriors - 2014-2015 NBA Champions

Golden State Warriors – 2014-2015 NBA Champions

A Complete Guide To Warehouse Safety-Volume III-House Keeping


Since we began our journey down the Geen Brick Road of Safety, we have met Hazard Analysis in volume I and learned how to identify safety hazards.  Then further down the road, we were introduced to PPE, in volume II which showed us what equipment is available to protect employees.  Both of these are heavy hitters in the world of workplace safety, but can we still further protect our employees from injury?  Yes, of course, we can and it’s up ahead around the bend.  Let me Introduce to you, Housekeeping.  Granted, it’s not a very glamorous sounding name as it brings up images of maids and hotels who are sweeping, mopping and dusting, but actually, that is a part of Housekeeping.


Trips and falls are the number ONE accident that occurs in the workplace and good housekeeping can severely reduce those numbers.  Housekeeping is a concept that covers all areas of the warehouse by   keeping your work area clean (swept/mopped/washed)  •free of liquid spills on the floor, they’re dealt with immediately to prevent slips  •keep area free of clutter & obstructions (remove scraps, cardboard, excess strapping material, plastic wrap, and other raw materials not needed)  •keep it organized (needed tools for adjustments to machinery or repairs as well as machine lubricants are at hand to find when needed and always kept in proper working condition.


Work area set up for maximum efficiency and ergonomics (setting up a workstation to allow the least amount of movements by the employee to complete their tasks while reducing repetitive motion, as well as stopping and bending over a workbench and reaching for extended periods of time.  A great example is the kitchen triangle.  To achieve maximum efficiency in the kitchen it is set up with a clearly defined path so the chef can easily reach the three key areas;  stove, sink and refrigerator.  That’s how your workstation should be set, everything within reach so you don’t have to stop and go find it.

In a warehouse where perishable goods and other food products are stored, good housekeeping is even more critical and referred to as sanitation.  Cleaning is always done on a continuous basis as laid out by a master sanitation schedule which ensures all critical areas are consistently covered for cleaning.  A good sanitation program will prevent any contamination of food product and keep the facility clean and organized enough to also prevent accidents and the attraction of vermin and insects.

One more term you will hear traveling along the Green Brick Road of Safety in relation to housekeeping is 5S.  5S is a discipline created in Japan that has specific ways to keep your work area clean, free of debris and organized.  The 5S stand for Seiri – Clearing up.  Seiton – Organizing.  Seiso – Cleaning.  Seiketsu – standardizing.  Shitsuke – self-discipline.  There are also variations of 5S like 6S (Sort, Straighten, Sweep, Standardize, Self-Discipline, & Safety).  5S would be a great tool to introduce if you wanted to create a new workplace culture that develops disciplines even a mom would dream of.  If you want to learn more about 5S google will give you many leads.


No matter what housekeeping program you decide to go with or what you call it, 5S, 6S, No S,  I think you can see why keeping your warehouse organized and clean is important.  A quick tip, when your warehouse looks clean, organized and well-kept inspectors of all types tend not to look deeper for issues, bosses won’t hassle you and corporate won’t even think about you.

This does NOT conclude our journey on the Green Brick Road of Safety.  There are still a few more safety icons to meet on our journey to make your workplace safe.  If you don’t want to miss an issue click on the email icon on the bottom right to receive via email.  Please don’t hesitate to also check our website, warehouseflow.com 


A Complete Guide To Warehouse Safety-Volume II-Picking PPE


In Volume I-Back To Basics, we began our trip down the Green Brick Road of Safety where we met job safety analysis, who showed us where our safety hazards can be located.  Now that we know that we can determine what kind of PPE is needed to give further protection to employees as they carry out their tasks.  PPE – Personal Protective Equipment, (Is designed to protect workers from serious workplace injuries or illnesses resulting from contact with chemical, radiological, physical, electrical, mechanical or other workplace hazards), is very similar to what our Knight above is wearing.  His job description includes protecting his King from enemies of the realm which probably usually meant battle.  So 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.



The same would also apply to an athlete getting ready for either type of football game.  Shin guards, shoulder pads and helmets give protection needed to get through the game.

Apply this thinking as you look at where the hazards intersect with the employees and what added protection will keep them from injury or long term disability.  As a reminder, a safety professional should usually do this, however knowledge is a powerful thing and all employees, whether management or worker should be aware of what is available.

images (13)ppeexamples

HANDS/GLOVES – There are many types of gloves available for any job function.  For moving and handling cartons or stacking pallets the gloves will give you a very good grip as well as protect from splinters.  If your job includes using sharp blades or cutting instruments there are gloves made from kevlar that prevent lacerations.     There are gloves that protect you from acid & chemical burns and other corrosive materials as well as thermal gloves for extreme temperature use.  You have many to choose from to properly protect your workers.

HEAD/BUMP-CAP -Sometimes employees have to work in cramped spaces or areas with low hanging obstacles.   A bump cap can prevent head impact and penetration injuries in those situations.  It is also highly recommended that staff cover and protect long hair that can get caught in machinery parts or belts.

images (13)PPE

EYES/SAFETY GLASSES – Sight is one of your critical five senses that needs to be protected at all times.  Employees that work in areas where they are flying fragments, large chips, sparks and splashes  should be fitted for face shields.  Goggles, safety glasses and prescription glasses with side shields may be effective enough for areas with particles, sand, dirt, dusts and glare.

EARS/HEARING PROTECTION – Hearing is another crucial sense to protect, since damage can be  gradual over time and not as immediately noticeable like loss of sight.  Working an 8 hour shift in an environment where the noise level is 90dB or higher will cause irreversible damage your hearing.  Consistently wearing ear plugs or ear muffs will protect your hearing.  Ear plugs come as daily disposable types that conform to the shape of your ear canal or permanent egg plugs specifically molded for your ears by a professional.  Some high noise areas may require a combination of ear plugs and muffs.


FEET/LEG PROTECTION – Just as important as the eyes and ears are your limbs.  Having the dock workers wear steel tipped shoes will help prevent crushed toes and broken bones in the foot.  They protect not only from a run-over hazard but dropping heavy items as well.  If you work in a cold warehouse the proper shoes will also prevent slips and falls.

LUNGS/DUST MASKS & RESPIRATORS – Are there areas of the facility where heavy dust is an issue or smoke, gas vapors, paints and sprays are completed.  Depending on the amount of contaminant particles in the air and toxicity of the vapors there are many items available.  From simple dust masks  to respirators and other breathing apparatus for use in confined spaces where toxic fumes collect.

ADVERSE CONDITIONS & OTHER ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS – Imagine putting yourself inside a washer machine that’s inside a hot warehouse and then having to make repairs to the washer from within inside.  That’s what working inside a confined space can feel like.  You’re totally enclosed except for a tiny portal.  There is not air movement, it’s hot and dark and there may be toxic gases still trapped inside.  Think about having to stand near by as molten metals are poured into molds and you get a blast of the fumes and heat as it’s poured or imagine picking customer orders for hours in 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, none of these suggestions will work if proper training is not given as an accompaniment.   Employees must be educated  on how to properly use the PPE, understand the limitations of the PPE and how to adjust and wear the PPE including 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 this journey down the Green Brick Road of Safety.  We still have some distance to go.  Volume III will be here before you know it.

If You’re Finger Pointing, It’s Too Late, 2.

This article was originally published Jul 2012 and was spawned from a discussion on LinkedIn.  However, In light of recent accidental workplace explosions and fires it has been revised and updated.

What is going on people?  There has been a series of serious workplace accidents in the news of late, happening around the world and the U.S.  This is a big concern since it tells me people are getting lazy, cutting corners and looking the other way from glaring safety violations.  I fear some are using budgetary concerns as an excuse to reduce safety awareness, training, preparation and enforcement which is infuriating since most if not all of these accidents were absolutely preventable.

(Warning-on my soap box for a moment)  When you read about American manufacturers crying about the cost of compliance of safety and environmental programs laid out by U.S. Government Agencies and how the industry can do a better job of regulating itself, I look at these incidents and wonder how bad it would get if they did.  Don’t these corporations realize these incidents only lead to further scrutiny by those Government Agencies,  adding more red tape and contant OSHA investigations which always leads to finger pointing, not to mention the lost revenues due to shutdowns for investigations, the imposed fines as well as the care and rehabilitation of the injured or even worse, death benefits.

You can always recognize a facility that has slashed or eliminated it’s safety budget as soon as you walk in the door.  Immediately you notice the safety violations, lack of organization, cleanliness, enforcement and poor working habits.  It has been proven over and over the best course of action is   still prevention.  So let’s look at some of these recent accidents.

images (12)

• April 8, 2013.  7 Workers Die Inside Mexico Brewery Tank.  PREVENTABLE.  There are several measures that should be taken before any employee enters a confined space.  An air sample should be taken before anyone enters to check for toxic fumes.  Do you know what was stored in there before?  Not only should the employee(s) entering wear a tether so they can be retrieved quickly, but someone should also be spotting, constantly maintaining visual and verbal contact while employee(s) are working inside.  There is no quick in and out with this and all procedure need to be followed.  The worst thing is to send in more people to retrieve an unconscious person without proper equipment, you only wind up with more victims.  In the United States NO one can order you into a confined space without taking these proper steps or fire you for refusal.

• April 17, 2013.  The Texas fertilizer plant explosion.  PENDING.  The investigation continues but your credibility may be in question when you forget to tell the Department of Homeland Security that you were storing large quantities of a potentially explosive fertilizer, ammonium nitrate.  Not a minor oops when the reporting threshold is 400 pounds and you held 270 tons.  Then, their most recent partial safety inspection of the facility in 2011 led to $5250 in fines.  I don’t see the savings here in cutting corners.

• April 24, 2013.  Fuel Barges Explode On Mobile River, Injuring 3.  PENDING.  The U.S. Coast guard is investigating but stated that the likely cause of the fire was a spark created during cleaning.  The question begs, was proper protocol followed before cleaning began or was someone in a rush and just cut corners?  As above, working a confined space like a fuel barge, you need to make sure it is empty and free of fumes before beginning any work, and double check before using any type of flame or spark producing equipment.

• April 26, 2013.  Worker Killed At Nissan’s Tennessee Plant.  PREVENTABLE.  An employee of a supplier died in a fatal accident at its vehicle assembly plant in Smyrna, Tenn. when a large electrical panel fell while it was being moved.  My gut tells me that someone thought this would only take a few minutes and didn’t make sure the equipment was properly secured for moving.  I found that outside contractors are the worst at following safety guidelines and gives your staff a legit complaint of why they have to and outsiders don’t.  The best way to handle this is outside contractors are escorted everywhere by an employee, which costs money or they go through a training course given by the company and after that any violators are banished.

images (10)

• March 21, 2013.  $58M verdict in death suit could be New Mexico record.  PREVENTABLE.  Training is so critical to any job.  How the machine operates, how to clock in and out, PPE and how to properly wear it, all the do’s and don’ts.  The jury sent a clear message to the trucking industry, and the oil and gas industry in particular, that those companies who choose not to follow safety rules, and who place profits over human life, will be held accountable for the harm that they cause.

• May 1, 2013.  Worker Dies in blender at meat plant.  PREVENTABLE.  LOTO (Lock Out Tag Out) – This is a loto you want to win.  No piece of equipment should be touched until it is rendered safe by cutting off it power and/or air supply.  No matter how young or agile you think you are you still are not quicker than the machine.  Clearing jams, making adjustments, replacing parts, and for cleaning — LOTO.  Again, in the U.S. NO ONE can order you to work on “live equipment”.  

Safety in the workplace is not a magical process that happens all on it’s own.  It is something that needs to be planned, prepared, communicated and then training, instruction and more training followed by your ever present vigilance.   There is no worse feeling in the world than filling out an accident report and escorting an employee to the emergency room.

images (11)

You have every right to leave work at the end of your shift the same way you arrived, in one piece.  If safety is not taken seriously at your workplace you have a few options.  Become a safety advocate and bring issues to your supervisor.  Discuss the issues with your H.R. department and help form safety committees with management and workers resolving potential problems together.  If you belong to a  union bring the issues up to your business manager, what are you paying dues for?  However, if your attempts to bring safety forefront are continually ignored or put down and people are getting hurt, you have an important decision to make.  You either put up with it and hope for the best or you quit and work somewhere else where your life is appreciated as much as your contributions or pick up that phone and call OSHA. There is only one you that can’t be replaced and who wants to be there when the finger pointing begins.

Sure Fire Ways To Achieve Max Velocity.

images (6)

I love science.  Well, most of science, not a big fan of equations and statistics.  However, I love science, even more, when I get the opportunity to apply it to issues going on in my world of warehousing. Science?!  In a warehouse? Really?!  I think the best way to prove it, is to show you how we can use science in your warehouse.

Order picking, like receiving is another one of those critical areas of any warehouse whether picking raw materials for manufacturing or picking orders to be shipped to a commercial store or residential retail customer.  Your goal is to get the correct item to the customer intact and within the timeline the customer demands.  You want to pick in an uninterrupted flow, like a serene river, with the pick order set in a sequence to build a stable and good-looking pallet, able to stand up to the rigors of shipping and within the customer’s specs.

If your warehouse pick operation is already set up for maximum efficiency you are to be commended.  If you would like to get your order picking to that point here are some tips and history to get you there.  It begins with Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto, born July 15, 1848, and the young Italian grew up with many interests and talents including engineering, sociologist, economist, and scientist.  He was the first who observed in 1906 that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population and he further developed the principle by observing that 20% of the pea pods in his garden contained 80% of the peas.  This all gave birth to the Pareto principle of 80/20.

images (7)

This principle applies to your warehouse in that 20% of your SKU, (stock keeping unit) accounts for 80% of the volume picked.  Why is that significant?  When you set up the locations of your picking slots you want the fastest movers closest to the dock for convenient quick movement.  In fact, depending on the quantities you ship you may want to look into cross-docking some of these items as well.  You also want to give the physical pick location ample space to hold enough product for orders to be picked with the least amount of replenishments.  It also means that the items that account for only 5% of your pick volume can be placed the furthest away from the dock and can sometimes be stored in gravity flow racks and picked in batch style.  How does one find out how fast the product moves?  You should be able to have generated a velocity report, and I would bet that the sales and purchasing groups have access to this report as well.  It’ll break down for you the total number of units moved for each SKU over a designated period of time.  This information can show you seasonal variations in quantities of specific SKU shipped and other patterns.  I found running a velocity report quarterly was enough but you may want to look at it on a monthly basis.  Now you can categorize your SKU into their different types of mover groups, fastest to the slowest and can be broken down into three or four groups depending on the number of SKU you maintain on hand.  A items=20% of the products that account for 80% of cases moved.  B=30% of the products that account for 15% of cases moved and C=50% of the products that account for 5% of cases moved.

images (8)

With that accomplished we can begin planning the slotting sequence and layout of your pick slots.  Usually want to set it up with heavy & large sturdy items picked first to form the base of the pallet and smaller lighter cases on top to avoid any crushing of boxes.  If you’re picking strictly raw materials for production put your heaviest items closest to production.  Make sure to purposely leave a few empty pick slots here and there for future expansion or to help give added slots for holiday season quick movers.

Once you have the sequence in order, to help maintain maximum picking efficiency you want to know how many cases of an item can actually fit into the picking slot.  That information helps determine the size of the pick slot you want and the number of replenishment you’ll need to make during any given workday.  The best way to accomplish this is by Cubing.   No, it’s not the art period but the cubic footage the case, carton, the box actually exists in.  However, to stop and measure every single SKU you have and calculate the cubic space it uses is extremely labor-intensive and there is also a greater risk of error.  There are machines like Cubiscan that you can purchase or lease to accomplish this task in no time.  Moving forward, as new items come to the warehouse you can get the carton size specs from purchasing or the vendor for calculating cubic feet.  


Keeping the flow.  I strongly recommend that once you have gone through all this effort to get your picking operation in order keep it fresh by reviewing velocity reports on a regular basis and reviewing your slotting.  Listen to feedback from the pickers as they’re in the trenches every day and believe me they enjoy building the perfect pallet and they catch subtle differences in carton sizes or weights and other changes in the product.   They have some great ideas for picking sequences.  Most importantly put all this information together and develop a written slotting guide and procedures for your company on how the product is set up in the warehouse.  State your list of categories of velocity, A – ?, how often you’ll do velocity reports, and Include what input is needed from purchasing and a suggested timeline for this process on new items coming in with their dimensions, weight, and estimated usage.  Make sure all old inventory is used up before beginning a new replacement item to avoid dead inventory.

Hurray Science.