Companies Behaving Badly – April Day Fool

In another time, long before the world of political correctness descended upon the land, April Fool’s Day was a day that you were pretty much given license to do whatever and to whomever you wanted in a merciless assault of pranks, hoaxes and practical jokes that was unleashed on your co-workers, friends and family.  From covering toilet tops with plastic wrap to putting food dye in the soap dispenser to listing a neighbor’s house up for rent, the hardest thing to do is keeping a straight face as your victims react.  The jokes from my childhood will always be classic to me, putting cooties or spider on a girl’s blouse, ringing door bells and running away.  There was also no caller I.D. then either, so you could ask the local grocer if they had Prince Albert in a can or go catch the refrigerator that was running.  When did this annual  embrace of immaturity and nonsense start?  No one is really sure but there are two theories that seem to have the majority of believers.  One has to do with the changing of when New Year’s was celebrated as those who now partied on January 1st, the hipsters of medieval times, poked fun of and pulled pranks on the old timers who still celebrated it on March 25-April 1st.  Sounds like society.  Another theory is it started during Constantine’s time when court jesters and fools insisted they could do a better job of running the empire. Constantine allowed one jester, Kugel to be king for a day who then passed an edict for april fools day celebration and it stuck.  What ever the origin, it appears it’s here to stay.  One classic, in 1957 the BBC broadcasted a story on the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest showing farmers harvesting the pasta from trees.  The BBC was flooded with requests on where to purchase a spaghetti plant and they finally had to come clean that it was a prank.  I myself woke up today to front page headlines proclaiming that there were no more industrial accidents occurring!  No amputations, no falls, all machines had guards in place, LOTO was practiced religiously and no employees were killed from management’s neglect while everyone was wearing the latest and greatest in PPE…April Fool!  So that must mean, unfortunately this is another episode of Companies Behaving Badly.



OSHA finds company at fault for worker’s death – PREVENTABLE – A 42 year old worker believed his employer, Jack Smiley Plaster Company would provide proper scaffolding to protect him from falling while performing his task of applying stucco to a building.  He fell about 19 feet to his death due to the scaffolding not being properly built and Jack Smiley was hit with 5 violations including one willful.  A willful violation is issued when the employer intentionally, knowingly or voluntarily disregard requirements, or have an indifference to worker safety and health.  A bureaucratic way to say they couldn’t care less and this landed them on the OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program and proposed fines of $57,000.  Falls are the leading cause of fatalities in the construction industry and you can help stop this.  Notice how pilots walk around their planes before getting in and taking off.  Be a pilot.  When you arrive on the scene before you climb that scaffolding, check it out and make sure it’s put together correctly.  If it’s loose, don’t go up and look where your safety harness ties off?  Afraid the foreperson will get angry….it’s your life not his.  As far as I’m concerned, a willful act that gets a person killed, that person who committed the willful act should be in prison.

Coroner: Schuylkill Haven man died of blunt force trauma – PREVENTABLE – Terry Lee Warner, 66 of Schuylkill Haven was employed at Classtex Knitting Mills, Inc. in the receiving department where he unloaded trucks and also served as a mechanic.  When Terry Lee woke up for work on this chilly Thursday morning he had no idea or belief he wouldn’t be coming home that evening.  Indications are Terry was killed by blunt force trauma to the torso caused when he was struck by a tractor trailer that was backing into the loading dock.  He somehow found himself caught between the fence and the truck as his body was found next to a broken fence on the driver’s side of the rig.  There is NO reason to be behind a truck whether it’s idle (you don’t know when it’ll begin to move) or backing up.  If you do need to direct a backup make sure the driver knows where you are at all times.  Stop and tell him that to his face and then make sure to maintain eye contact with him at all times.  Don’t assume the driver is always paying attention and looking for you.

photo credit: BinaryApe via photopin cc

photo credit: BinaryApe via photopin cc

OSHA proposes $117,000 in penalties for ConAgra violations – PREVENTABLE – Here we are again, with a company, this time it’s ConAgra Foods, who’s expecting their workers to meet their daily production goals yet keeps putting up roadblocks to their efforts by exposing them to unnecessary hazards like machines lacking guards and exposure to falls greater than 7 feet high, which by the way both are also repeat violations.  In fact OSHA found a total of 13 violations with 3 repeat and 10 serious which then begs the question how can employees take a company seriously that they’re watching out for them when hazards to workers are tolerated and not repaired?  You can’t do a very good job when you’re having to continually dance around hazards.

Telecommunication Towers Claim More Lives: Two Workers Dead in Kansas – PREVENTABLE – How many more Tower workers have to die before something is done?  Martin Powers, a 38 year old husband and father from St. Charles, Mo. and Seth Garner, a 25 year old son and brother from St. Peters, Mo. are the two latest victims in what’s become a death toll spiraling out of control as 6 have perished so far this year in Telecommunication towers following 13 deaths last year.  This is totally unacceptable and it’s time to stop and take a serious long look at how and what we’re doing to protect workers as we fill our need for cell service across the country.

Worker Trapped in Hot Asphalt Nets OSHA Fine for Florida Company – PREVENTABLE – L.O.T.O. is one of the easiest safety rules to follow yet companies seem not to have the time for it and prefer “chance” instead.  Atlantic Coast Asphalt, a part of Hubbard Construction Company ignored permit required confined space entry and  LOTO procedures that resulted in an employee being severely burned as hot liquid began to fill the tank he was working in and then it took 8 hours to remove him.  For their lack of attention to detail and not bothering to check all hazards were identified, documented, measured and controls put in place prior to the employee entering the space, OSHA has cited Atlantic Coast Asphalt $63,360.  Don’t crawl into any confined space until you make sure that LOTO has been performed on all pipes or conveyors leading to your space.  Don’t take anyones word not to worry about it.  The life you save, will be your own.

Roofing Material Manufacturer Cited by OSHA – PREVENTABLEAt the Harvey, La. facility of  Minerals LLC. they also seem to rely on “chance” as their safety model as well as a means to save money by not training  or protecting its workers for confined spaces and L.O.T.O.  So they were hit with 11 violations total including failure to protect workers from high noise levels, forklift driver training in addition to the LOTO and confined space.  The one repeat violation was for failing to conduct annual inspections of the company’s LOTO procedures.  It’s a shame that a company would have so little regard for the health and safety of its workers because profits were more important than human life.

Man dies on rig site in Dunn County: OSHA investigated 37 workplace deaths in Oil Patch since 2010 – PREVENTABLE – Deadwood, South Dakota of the 1870’s old west was a dangerous place to be but it has nothing on the new oil fields of the Dakotas as 37 workers have died there in 4 years.  That’s right, it averages about 9 deaths per year in the one area, like a serial killer.  The latest victim, 32 year old Kristopher Barnes who leaves behind a wife and 3 children was struck by a traveling block and later died from injuries.  So you know it is one of the five most common oilfield safety hazards along with fall hazards, electrical fires and explosions.  There should be a outrageous indignation that these young men are going off the these new fields and dying because these greedy companies are putting safety and training in as an after thought, if at all.

Mine safety quietly cut in House budget bill – BAD MESSAGE With no explanation and little discussion, the House budget bill passed this month slashed Gov. Steve Beshear’s proposals for mine safety by nearly $2.3 million a year, raising concerns among safety advocates that there might not be enough money to conduct required inspections.  This is very sad news as the mining companies will take this as a sign that they can cut corners on safety.  I would love to see this politicians get up off their brains and spend a few hours in a mine shaft operating equipment and see if they still feel the same afterwards.  Write your politicians and ask why?

Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) Issues Guidance on Recordkeeping Duties for Temporary Workers – HELP FOR TEMPS OSHA has issued new guidelines on recordkeeping and other responsibilities for temporary employees which is great since many are suffering serious or fatal injuries their first days on the job.  Enforcement, outreach and training will all be key to keeping temps safe.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry Files Letter Against OSHA’s Silica Rule Proposal –   OSHA Begins Long Silica Public Hearing – DEBATE – The new debate going on now is the new levels of Silica exposure in the OSHA rule proposal.  The Governor of Texas has filed a letter against the new proposal.  Read what’s going on so you may decide for yourself.  Remember at one time asbestos was not considered a hazard either.

warehouseflow advisors

warehouseflow advisors

That my friends brings another episode of Companies Behaving Badly to a close.  Thank you for stopping by and taking time out of your busy day to read.  Please feel free to share these stories at your next safety meeting or safety tailgate/toolbox gathering.  Workplace safety is just as much your responsibility as it is for management and the company.  Before you enter a confined space, perform maintenance on a piece of equipment, work on a elevated platform or drive a forklift make sure you check it out first and make sure it is safe.  Don’t assume it’s O.K.  Remember NO ONE can make your perform an unsafe act on the job.  If you feel you’re being pressured to do so, get your union representative or H.R. person and talk to them.  Become a safety advocate and be part of the safety committee.  The life you save may be your own.

Drive to Survive

There are all kinds of safety gadgets available for your vehicle thanks to the latest in science and technology, like seat belts, air bags, anti locking breaks, rear cameras. Then add the computers installed so all the different components within your car can not only communicate with each other but then tell your service department what’s going on.  Yet with all this, the best functioning safety gizmo still available for any vehicle to date, is, your BRAIN!!

Your brain, a marvel of science, retains all the driver training you’ve received over the years, from your Dad groaning, “the clutch!” to drivers education lessons to actual experiences behind the wheel and in some cases profesional driver training for a  job.  Your brain draws on info in your memory and within split seconds tells you how and when to respond to an emergency.  The brain occupies the same head as your eyes and like a computer, constantly updates data is receives from them as they scan the road ahead. This is all good since you are driving a potential weapon, two tons of plastic and metal at high speeds in rain, snow and pedestrian congestion.  So as your brain processes the movement of surrounding traffic and the various speeds of cars and trucks, changing lanes, slowing and breaking while listening to last nights scores why would you corrupt the data flow by talking on your cell, or texting?

GUESS WHAT, you are NOT the only one on the road!  If you are not aware of what is going on around you, or driving distracted, you have the potential to not only hurt another person but do the unthinkable and take someone’s life if not your own.  There are hundreds of other people driving with you, all in their own little worlds dealing with the trials and tribulations of daily life.  At 60 mph you cover 88 feet in only one second.  That’s a 29 yard pass play in the blink of an eye.  All it takes is just two of you, not paying attention come upon a sudden slow down or someone making a sudden lane change and now you’re a statistic. Your day is ruined and now there’s paperwork, calls to the insurance company, adjustors and repairs and rental cars.  For what?    Responding to someones tweet?  Getting gossip that couldn’t wait for an hour?

I don’t care how much you think you are a multi-tasker.  When you’re busy chatting on your cell phone you are not paying attention to your surroundings, especially if it’s an intense conversation.  In most cases to compensate for being on the phone, you usually drive slower than you think you’re going and everyone is trying to go 60 mph and you’re moving at 40.  So instead of telling everyone they are number 1 when they honk at you, put down the damn phone and drive.  To drive to survive you need to watch the road at all times.  When you’re driving you need to pay full attention constantly scanning up front for changes in flow, vehicle movement and your mirrors.  In addition be polite on the road,  you don’t own it, you share it.  When you have to make a hard stop it’s pretty scary isn’t it?  The car slightly fish tails and you can hear the tires squeal as you hope you’ll stop in time as well as the car behind you.  Now just try to imagine what it would be like to do that same hard stop in a big rig and trailer weighing up to 80,000 lbs. or 40 tons fully loaded.  So why do you race and cut off something 5 times larger than you?  To save a minute?  When did this all become a competition trying to beat the next guy to point A.  If you need to get over, signal, slow down if needed and then change lanes.  Usually the moron that cuts off the truck is not in the accident, it’s the innocent behind the big rig that is stopping.  However If you see a truck driver being unsafe or driving distracted, most of them have a number on the back where it says, “How’s my driving?”  Don’t assume someone else will report the driver, don’t hesitate to make that call and get that driver off the road.  Believe me the company wants that guy off the road as well, since it’s really bad advertising for them to have someone driving one of their vehicles with the logo all over it and texting while driving, (see Your Drivers are ads, Good or Bad. If they don’t have that 800 number to call check the cabin door since all trucks in California are suppose to display their state registered number and interstate drivers have USDOT numbers on their trucks to identify them.

Yes, there is always going to be the jerk who feels their time is more important than anyone else and will change lanes at will.  Don’t hate them, since they are not worth your time or energy, just feel sorry for them.    If that jerk cuts you off for that 5 second lead, don’t take it out on the next guy who comes along.  They don’t know you were cut off, why ruin their day?  Let everyone in on your intent.  Use the signal device, that’s what it’s there for.  When dealing with glare from the sun cutting down your visibility, don’t look directly into the sun but to the side and slow down.  Plan ahead.  You know when you need to get off the freeway, don’t wait til the last minute and try to get to the exit lane from the far left.  Your stupidity and laziness is not someone elses problem.  When the weather is bad, again plan and leave early so you can drive a little slower to get to your destination in one piece.

Another important aspect, don’t let any friend or even your enemy drive who are impaired by drink or drugs.  Take their keys and call them a cab.  This is a decision that is easy to make and will keep you from living a life time of guilt.  I always preached to my kids, if they found themselves in that situation or the person they depended on for a ride was intoxicated to call me and I would get them, and they would be spared any judgmental lectures but would get a big hug for making the right call.  As the CHP signs say, report all drunk drivers.  You never know whose life you’ll be saving.

Keep your vehicle in top operating condition as well.  If it’s your personal car have the breaks checked and please don’t wait until you hear metal on metal.  It’s a little late then and will cost you more in repairs.  Don’t wait for the little light to come on to get gas.  Your engine is sucking in all those deposits on the bottom of your gas tank and you never know if you’ll run into a blocked or partially closed highway.  You don’t need to add worry of running out of gas in addition to everything else.  If you’re driving a company vehicle always use your checklist to ensure everything is operating properly and report any mechanical issues to your supervisor.

When something in your vehicle is found to be defective it can be brought in to service and be replaced.  To bad it’s not that easy to fix those who drive distracted or impaired.  That’s why we all need to drive to survive.

Don’t Panic. Just do as we practiced.

Whether your warehouse has recently had turnover or hired to support an expansion or even if everyone has been around for a while; does everyone know what to do in the event of a disaster?

Depending of what part of the country your warehouse is located, emergencies and disasters can come in various sizes or forms.  During the time I grew up on the solid concrete streets of the Bronx only had to deal with one hurricane and two blizzards.  However, moving to California put me on shaky ground with it’s earthquakes and forest fires.   If I moved to the midwest it would have been blizzards, tornadoes and floods while the southeast, hurricanes and tropical storms.  That’s just the natural disasters, now add in toxic spills, gas fumes released, loss of power, falls and medical related emergencies, the list is long.

Why wait until some disaster is in the news before you think about what would happen at work if it hit!  It’s just as good a time now to have a general safety meeting covering your company’s procedures for handling emergencies as any.  Even if your company doesn’t have an annual fire/evacuation drill or an emergency preparedness plan there is NO reason that you shouldn’t have one in the warehouse.  At one company I worked for, they thought it was a great idea to hold the annual fire drill on April fools day when it fell on a work day.  Most of the employees just rolled their eyes with annoyance and kept working.  This is NOT the reaction you’re looking for in a drill.  Even if you are under pressure from upper management that there is no time to do a evacuation drill, (yes, it happens) you can still cover the major points of a drill with your staff.  It’s easy to do at a morning tailgate or your monthly safety meeting:

Who do I contact for an emergency?  Just call 911 or does your company have a emergency response team in house that must be contacted.
What sounds alert me to an evacuation?  Verbal announcement via PA system, horns or whistle blast.  Some manufacturing plants use several whistle blasts.  One blast may be medical emergency and four would be evacuation.  Know what the number means!
Where is the meeting point to assemble after leaving the building?  This is important so a head count can be taken to make sure everyone is out of the building which affects the way the fire department approaches the fire.
Where is the disaster provisions locker?  Having a emergency provisions locker filled with bottled water, food, blankets, flashlights, batteries and other provisions can come in handy.  In earthquake country it’s also a good idea to have a wrench in the kit as well and know where all, if any, the gas shut off valves are located.  Creating, stocking and up keep of a provisions locker is a great team project for a safety committee or for the whole company developing what goes into the locker.

One other suggestion for you to do before a disaster or some other emergency strikes, become a safety advocate in your company.  Join or start a company wide safety committee or just one in your warehouse.  It’s a great way to get employees engaged and involved with their environment.  Work with your HR department and make safety important!
Safety shouldn’t be once a year annoyance.

Getting Together In The Morning, Helps Keep It Together.


I enjoy the squawk point and James Lawther’s well-written, plain English to-the-point articles.  They make you think!  (

I wanted to point out this particular article because the content is worth your time and even though it seems so simplistic an idea, it’s the reality and it’s critical to any team’s success. Especially on the warehouse/manufacturing floor, a little communication at the beginning of the shift sets the tone for the day while it gets everyone off on the right foot with a sense of purpose.   Call it whatever you want: a morning huddle, fireside chat, standing meeting, or a tailgate, those five to ten minutes spent at the beginning of the shift are a valuable tool for you to keep the staff informed, current and involved.

As with everything else in being a leader, be consistent when having your huddle, if you want to do it at the start of every morning/shift, do it, I did and it helped immensely and the topics to cover are endless:

  1. Remind employees to drink water and stay hydrated on a hot day.
  2.  Give pats on the back to the team for quickly working in an unexpected delivery.
  3.  Thanks for picking a last-minute order.
  4.  Be aware of slick floors on a rainy day.
  5.  Review a safety issue that’s been in the news or that you’ve recently observed.
  6.  The facility is expecting visitors like a bank auditor or corporate heads to be touring through.
  7.  Communicating open positions in the company.
  8.  Upcoming training sessions to be available
  9.  New customers coming on board.

This is not a time for negative feedback but good positive items to get them charged for the coming busy day.  BE on the floor, communicate and lead.