Companies Behaving Badly – November

November originally began as the 9th month of the year until the Romans bumped it down to 11, but this month is still dear to us as it’s full of special days and begins to take control of our social calendars as we move further into the fall season.  It’s also a month that we get to exercise our right to vote and voice our opinion on initiatives and referendums.  We also honor our heroes who have defended this great country as well as using this month to spotlight Diabetes awareness, lung cancer awareness, native american heritage and healthy skin.  Even with all that, the best thing about this month is we gain an extra hour of sleep.  So fluff up that pillow, pull your blanket up tight and please remain in the horizontal position for this is another episode of Companies Behaving Badly.

Milton firm cited in grain bin death – PREVENTABLE – United Ethanol, LLC was cited for 15 violations after the death of one of their own and it earned them a spot on the OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.  The company failed to lockout conveyors used to empty the grain bins, which exposed the now-deceased worker to the engulfment hazard which is a willful violation.  It would have taken a whole 5 minutes to LOTO the belts but United Ethanol didn’t stop there in tempting fate. They also didn’t bother to guard floor chute openings, prevent exposure to moving grain hazards, prevent workers from entering bins when hazards existed and had NO observer oversee entry procedures. Surprised they didn’t blind fold them first and spin them three times first. 

Archbold firm fined $147,600 for 16 alleged safety offenses – PREVENTABLE – Apparently, Napoleon Spring Works, Inc. had no problem exposing employees to amputation hazards by failing to properly guard machinery and then didn’t bother to listen to the employees who had to finally file complaints with OSHA.  They found Napoleon Springs in willful violation, which is “committed with intentional, knowing, or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health.”  Do you feel the love as well?  In addition to the monetary fines maybe the owners and management should be forced to do the job as well, hazards and all and see how they make out.  Napoleon Spring Works is a subsidiary of Lynx Industries Inc., based in Canada.

OSHA Cites Sinclair Refinery for $707,000 – PREVENTABLE – If there was a winner, (there are really no winners here) for this month’s worst company behaving badly Sinclair Refinery would take first by pulling in 22 violations and fines totaling over $700,000.  Here again, employees had to resort to calling OSHA themselves since they wanted to be able to go home at the end of their shift in one piece and uninjured. The refinery was cited for SIX willful violations and further demonstrated their concern for employees by the SIX Repeat serious violations and TEN new serious violations.  I’m sure the refinery management is scratching their heads wondering why someone called in OSHA…DAH!

Mira Loma warehouse fined for unsafe working conditions – PREVENTABLE – Olivet International is another one of those contract warehouses that Walmart and other large companies use so they can turn a blind eye to working conditions while they give you those low, low prices.  These contract warehouses are nothing more than sweatshops not unlike those found in Bangladesh and India as the 12 violations found will attest.  Blocked fire exits, falling boxes of merchandise, insufficient number of restrooms, no plan in the event of an injury on the job, no effective training on heat exposure or heat illness, blocked aisles and insufficient lighting.  Sound familiar?  The fines totaled $34,400 which I’m sure will be passed on to consumers as special service charges for the holidays.

OSHA fines Avon co. in death – PREVENTABLE – A young man was crushed to death when a concrete form he was tethered came loose and fell on him.  It was found that Diaz Construction Company failed to frequently and regularly inspect the job site and materials and equipment used there including the concrete formwork for stability prior to workers climbing on them.  They also didn’t adequately train the employee in the hazards associated with improper anchorage and installation of the formwork systems.  If you think they’ve learned from this incident don’t bet on it since they have had 19 violations since 2005.  Don’t take safety for granted.  Always inspect equipment at the beginning of your shift and don’t assume the previous shift left it in operational condition and report any unsafe conditions immediately.

Employees Feeling Less Safe at Work – INFO – Only 31% of U.S. employees polled believe their workplace is proactive about emergency preparedness.  Based on the blurbs above what I have posted in the last few months this is not at all surprising.  Remember though, safety is NOT just management’s issue, it’s yours as well.  Bring these issues up to management and get a safety committee going.  Hazards don’t go away on their own.

OSHA orders Connecticut trucking company owner to pay whistleblowers – INFO – Listen up!  This is happening more and more where companies have tried to intimidate and/or punish whistleblowers.  OSHA is making sure you don’t get away with it.  Be smart, do workplace safety correctly in the first place, listen to your employees and you won’t have to worry about being tattled on.

OSHA Recognizes Cintas Uniform Rental in Lafayette, Louisiana with Highest Safety Designation – APPLAUSE PLEASE – Wow, it can be done!  Congratulations to Cintas, Lafayette, Louisiana for demonstrating safety can be done right!

Hand Held Lights For Hazardous Environments – TOOLS  Streamlight, Inc. has added two new safety approved models to its family of  Knucklehead flashlights.  Check it out.

That concludes this episode of Companies Behaving Badly and I thank you for taking the time to read it.  Please feel free to use these stories as topics for your safety meetings/ safety tailgates or toolbox meetings and get a discussion going.  The lessons learned here are valuable for reinforcing workplace safety.  You have every right to expect to go home in the same condition as you arrived at work.  In one piece.  No one can order you to risk you life or limb just to save a few minutes or for a few dollars more.  One day human life will be the focus instead of profits. Take responsibility for safety and speak up.  Help get fellow employees and management involved and form safety committees and begin the discussion before OSHA tells you how.

Be kind to each other.


Ladder Safety and The Ups and Downs

Mike Willis

Mike Willis

“The ladder of success must be set upon something solid before you can start to climb”Voltaire

Even though he wasn’t specifically speaking about a ladder, Voltaire makes an outstanding observation when it comes to the proper use of a ladder.  As you weekend warriors begin to tackle those necessary fall tasks around the house remember that on a yearly average, 187,000 people will be injured and then treated in a hospital after serious run ins with their ladders.  A whopping 97% occur at homes, farms and other non-occupational settings.  It looks innocent enough, standing there but like any other piece of equipment, if not inspected and handled properly you too can be rewarded by spending the weekend in emergency.


DO Before you use it, inspect the ladder and make sure it is in operational shape.  Wooden ladders have a tendency to break down over the years and all types of rungs can become unstable and a hazard.  After you examine the ladder, If there are any flaws and/or you have any doubts, throw it out!  Buy a new one and go metal this time unless you do electrical work then wood or fiberglass is the way to go.                                                                                                                                                               DON”T – use the last words:  I can use it one more time.  As sure as lighting a cigarette brings the bus or mentioning any kind of streak ends it, this line will get you firmly planted on your butt and possibly E.R.

DO – When ever using a ladder around the house or at work it’s always a good policy to work in pairs.  It doesn’t hurt to have someone there to help stabilize the ladder and get tools as well as serve as a spotter if something were to happen.  Always climb using both hands and hoist needed tools if they prevent you from using both hands.                                                                                                                        DON’TDo It Alone.  If you fall and there is no one there to hear it, it still hurts and bones break.

DO – As Voltaire says, make sure to use a ladder on a firm evenly level base that is dry and clear of debris.  The ladder should be stationary without any wobble, tilting or any chance of the ladder slipping.  You want to be able to stand safely on the ladder while completing tasks.                        DON’T do a balancing act on the ladder and use on un-level ground or not on firm footing unless you intend to practice to perform in the circus or sideshow.  Set yourself up for success, NOT E.R.


DO – Use the appropriate size ladder for the job at hand with the correct weight limit.  You want to be able to comfortably reach the area you’re working on and keep the ladder in the proper balanced position.                                                                                                                                                          DON’T – Over extend yourself or stand on the very top rung and put yourself in a position of falling.  You are not auditioning for a sit-com and you don’t have a stunt double.

For fixed ladders, any ladder permanently attached to a structure, make sure to have a training program in place before allowing individuals to use it.  I strongly suggest you do the same if you have man-lifts in your facility as these can be extremely dangerous for those not familiar with their use.    Don’t use a ladder for anything other than a ladder and as with any piece of equipment, treat it with respect, use properly, take the necessary precautions and you’ll get to spend more time with the family and loved ones.

A Complete Guide To Warehouse Safety-Volume V-Giving Good Tailgates

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I hope this journey down the Green Brick Road of Safety has been as much a pleasure for you as it has been for me and I thank you for allowing me to show you the sights.  We are all most at the end of this trip as there are only two more legs to go.  Along this road we have come to know Hazard Analysis, PPE, HouseKeeping and Emergency Ready.  You would think with all this coverage available to protect your staff how could you possibly do more?  AH, but you can by making sure you give good weekly safety tailgate meetings on a consistant basis.

A safety tailgate is an informal gathering of employees to discuss a safety issue or demonstrate a new feature on a piece of equipment or teach a new technique.  They not only allow flexibility on how you do this but safety tailgates are great for so many other reasons.  They can serve as a way to keep safety on employee’s mind in-between those monthly safety meetings.  They are suited for a busy work environment since you can break your staff up into smaller groups and keep everyone else working until it’s their turn.  You can also tailor your subject matter to target those safety behaviors you want to review and/or correct and best of all, tailgates are short, sweet and to the point.  Just as you would in a full blown monthly safety meeting you should use a sign in sheet to track who’s attended and what topic was covered.

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WHEN SHOULD YOU GIVE A TAILGATE?  You should hold a tailgate at least once a week and can do it at any time on the shift you want.  It’s just a short discussion that should last no more than 10-15 minutes.  You can make it part of your morning Huddle* before the staff begins their work day, or hold them right after lunch.  Look for what day of the week and time of day looks to be your slowest period?  That may be a good time as well.  (*Huddle-Like in American Football, the team gathers together to hear the next play to run.  It’s a great tool to begin each shift by giving a quick rundown on the days upcoming events, whether it’s the number of deliveries expected, visitors in the building or any information that will help the staff.)

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


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

BE PREPARED.  What ever topic you choose make sure you are prepared to discuss it and know what you are talking about.  There is nothing worse than giving out bad information or being contradicted by an employee.  If you are not sure about something, it is perfectly o.k. to tell an employee you don’t know the answer but that you’ll find out and then make sure you get back to them in a timely manner.  Tailgates are also an excellent way for you to build your own confidence when it comes to public speaking.  It’s much easier speaking in front of a small group of people you know and interact with on a daily basis than a room full of strangers.  Just be yourself and present the material clearly and straight forward and make sure to allow time for questions by the staff.

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


Now Hear This!

While I’m waiting for the light to change and listening to the very loud bass vibrating my car from the next vehicle, I chuckle as I think, wow in 20 years we’re going to have a massive hearing loss epidemic among males and headlines asking why the government didn’t do anything to stop it.  You laugh as I but hearing loss is a bigger problem in the work place than you may think.  Sounds over 90 decibels can cause damage to the inner ear when encountered over a long period of time and to compare, a normal conversation at 3 feet apart from one another is 60-65 decibels.  So if your working 8 hours in an environment where the noise level is 90dB and over, (some experts say 80dB and over) you NEED to wear some level of hearing protection PPE, (Personal Protective Equipment).

For those of you already working in noisy environments this is nothing new and your company should be issuing hearing protection and you MUST be USING them diligently.  You also upon your hire should have had a baseline test completed.  This helps monitor and determine if there is any drop in hearing over the years of employment.  Good companies follow up with a hearing test on your employment anniversary date to track if any issues.

Do you need hearing protection at your place of work?   A general rule of thumb is that if you need to shout to be heard, the sound is in the range that can damage hearing.  With forklifts generating 77-93dB and diesel trucks clocking 97-112dB a dock could get noisy.  Speak with your supervisor or manager and ask that a sound test be completed. Then depending on the decibel levels measured you can work with HR on selection of the proper ear protection.

                   Ear Plugs                                                                                  Ear Muffs



OSHA also has posted, limits of exposure time for noise. For 90dB it’s 8 hours a day down to 15 minutes a day at 115 dB.  It’s interesting to note that OSHA limits exposure of 100 decibels to 2 hours.  100 dB is generated easily at some rock concerts, so a 3-4 hour show can actually be damaging to your hearing.

Take safety seriously, protect your hearing, it’s something that happens gradually over the years and will not return after you’ve lost.   Open up those lines of communication with your company and make safety everybody’s problem.

Staying Cool.

Stay Hydrated during those hot days

Safety Tail Gate Topic:  Not drinking enough water while temperatures and humidity are high along with strenuous physical activity can cause issues in your warehouse.  When working vigorously, employees should drink at least 8oz. of water every hour and taking breaks in a cool place to help avoid heat exhaustion.  Placing a water cooler in a strategic location for the staff will encourage them to keep drinking water and stay productive and it would be a good practice to use containers that can be closed to avoid spills on the dock floor.

     The symptoms of heat exhaustion are heavy sweating, faintness, cool moist skin, dizziness, fatigue, weak rapid pulse, muscle cramps, nausea and headache.  If you find a fellow employee exhibiting these symptoms move them immediately to a cooler location.  Notify a supervisor or send another employee to alert management, since you don’t want to leave the ill person alone.  Give them cool water or a sports drink if available.  Does your company have an emergency response team or procedures to cover someone in stress?  This would be a great topic to cover in your teams next safety meeting as well.