The Company Hostage

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The company had a very old ASRS, Automated Storage and Retrieval System to store the majority of it’s finished product inventory.  We were in transition as the company had gone into receivership and was run by an investment corporation that was trying to keep overall costs as low as possible while they prayed and searched for a buyer.  The system was so old that in the era of CD drives it still used floppy disc to operate the system that was, to say the least, fragile.  It could freeze up due to trouble reading a dirty license plate or from a loud sneeze or other inexplicable reason and have to be rebooted.

The cost to upgrade was enough that our benevolent keepers felt hiding their heads in the sand and ignoring the problem would magically make it stop hurting the bottom line but it was every time the ASRS was down.  It interfered with production in that when you can’t put the product into storage you can’t keep packaging it and when you can’t retrieve product to ship you can’t invoice.  In addition, a lot of overtime was spent on having workers move and stack product anywhere they could in the facility so the packaging of the product could continue but that also led to inventory issues of lost and misplaced product which became a nightmare for our production scheduler. 

Our keepers also didn’t see how over time the leadership on-site had surrendered its authority and through attrition and neglect, there was only a handful of employees left who not only knew how to operate the ASRS but how to keep it going and no one in management noticed the pending issue or thought to make plans for rectifying the situation because they were too busy putting out fires or pointing fingers at one another. 

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Things had actually been moving along pretty well during the last few weeks with only a few minor hiccups of the ASRS and word the company may have found a new owner but on this particular warm sunny afternoon, a few employees were caught smoking a joint in the back of the shipping building.  Marijuana was not yet legal in any form in any state and in accordance with the company zero tolerance policy, they were terminated on the spot. The problem was of the five caught smoking, three were ASRS operators which was more than half the staff as well half the only people who could operate the system.  

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The “IT” really hit the fan, of course, during the graveyard shift after they had forced swing shift for four hours, allowable by contract no one else showed up to operate the ASRS.  Management hadn’t realized that there was no one else available that had been trained to operate the system.  They had screwed-up royally and were behind the eight ball.  No communication or verification nothing but an all night long battle of survival as pallets of product were stacked five high down corridors, hallways any open space was fair game as production had to pack out the product already produced within a specific time frame.  The company in a word had been taken, hostage.

The ASRS operators still available were refusing over time even the forced four hours and the union was standing up for them pointing out the safety issues of working all the extra hours and demanding the return of the fired workers while not allowing the training of any additional ASRS personnel keeping the company hostage.  After a few days of keeping on their game face, and saying everything was all right the company quietly began to negotiate an end to the hostage situation along with dealing with the backlog of the finished product all over the facility.  The deal eventually worked out after hours of negotiating brought back all the terminated employees, they all had to attend drug and alcohol rehabilitation, were on a one-year probation for drug use, had to train additional employees and management as well as document procedures on the ASRS while the company promised and began the painful process of upgrading the system to twenty-first century technology.

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This is a lesson that was not cheap.  The overtime alone to count inventory and to get all the finished product into the ASRS system was ridiculous and it took weeks to get shipping and invoicing back to normal.  A binder was created with all the information needed so that even a caveman could operate the ASRS and the cost of the upgrade was hovering at $One Million.  This all could have been avoided and not an issue if upper management kept their eye on the big picture and allowed their supervisors and managers to do their job of training and documenting training but they had no experience in manufacturing and were lost in all the complexities of an aging system and ancient techniques while trying to meet the demands of today.

As I’ve said many times you reap what you sow.  You don’t have to be a boss hogs taskmaster but you must hold people accountable for their actions after a thorough explanation of the rules, expectations, and consequences.  You are in charge of your realm of the kingdom that makes up the company so RUN IT!  Be proactive, do a yearly hazard inspection, check emergency gear, create a safety committee, do your walk and be on the floor 80% of the time so you know what’s going on and what your workers are dealing with.  For more tips and ideas on leadership or if you have questions please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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Companies Behaving Badly-Fear and Ignorance

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Welcome back and thank you for your time and consideration.  Hope your 4th of July was relaxing, entertaining and invigorating.  
The emotion of Fear and ignorance (a lack of knowledge) have been around since the dawning of humankind and when put together they are not a very good couple to have around.  Also for as long, people of great wealth and power have manipulated communities spreading lies to feed fear and scare people while simultaneously playing on their ignorance to generate hatred.  Motivating individuals to acts of violence against neighbors homes, businesses and up to killing if needed.  The only sole beneficiary, the man of power who started it.  When fire was first discovered I’m sure many were in fear of it.  It generated heat, it danced, it hurt like hell to touch but was unpredictability due to a lack of understanding.  The first person who learned to control fire no longer feared it as they knew how to use it safely and then could turn it into power as they used that fear of fire to their advantage spreading lies of its origin and why they could control it and by that alone is why they should be put in charge.  The match of fear and ignorance was a hit and the trend continued.  
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With all the problems these two have generated throughout our history of the world imagine the effect they have on workplace safety!  Companies and poor leaders keeping workers ignorant about their rights to a safe workplace. No training, no PPE, no safety meetings and if they question why they don’t have any of those items then Fear is used to intimidate them into silence and looking the other way or threatened with loss of their job so they become complicit, slowly eroding your morals or bullied into leaving the company for not going along with the program of tampered emergency shut-offs and no LOTO program so now the fear and ignorance boils over into hatred of  the company and what they did to me and winds up in a mass shooting at the plant while the bobbleheads stare into the camera and shake their heads in disbelief.  How could this happen?
The fear also includes that of OSHA.  At one company, as soon as I started I was barraged with safety issues by the employees.  “We have told the company about these issues for years and nothing gets done!”  I asked since the company has ignored them all this time why haven’t they called OSHA?  “Oh no man, we don’t want the plant closed down.  We’ll all be out of work.”  The fear of job losses, even though the plant wouldn’t have been closed but there should have been a lot of eyes going over every aspect of the plant.
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Before you begin a job, learn about it first.  What are the associated hazards, what kind of equipment is typically used, what kind of PPE and protection do I need and what kind of company am I working for?  It is always a good idea to get several points of view and not just from your boss or company but research on the web.  Read blogs like this and there are several out there, so look for your voice in a few of them.  Once you get a job, don’t stop learning.  New procedures, new techniques, new apps are coming every day and you can help your company as well as you yourself grow by reading and learning.  This is also a tool you can put into use of everyday life.  Don’t just take your neighbor’s advice, listen to it but see what other opinions are out there.  There is always a solution to problems when people discuss without fear or ignorance pushing them.  Don’t let fear and ignorance run or ruin your life.  Don’t let hatred win.  Stay informed. 
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Sometimes the company can actually be ignorant themselves of safety rules and regulations.  It happens but when the company is the General Services Department of the State of California, Feces, blood, syringes at California Capitol: Workers unprepared for clean up, OSHA says, ignorance is not the problem, incompetent leadership is.  I can’t believe the workers didn’t bring it up to management what they were found on the capitol grounds and how the hell can a state agency be that deaf, dumb and blind?  Why it’s poor leadership and I’m fairly certain they’ll keep making the same mistakes down the road, incompetence in the state is rarely punished but usually leads to a promotion or running for state office, so workers, here’s a case where you need to know what your rights are and speak up.  You do not have to operate under those conditions and CalOSHA agreed and fined a fellow agency for 9 violations.
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Nursing Education Consulting Inc.

Now I like gadgets just as much as the next guy/gal but I don’t think they should fully substitute the use of common sense or your brain.  8 Products to Help you Beat the Heat.  When you’re working in excessive heat it can be dangerous.  I know, I had crews unloading containers from overseas while the outside temperatures were 110 degrees and the temperature inside the container was at least 10 degrees higher.  We always set up the water cooler right next to the container being unloaded and fans blowing and frequent breaks.  Some guys would just push themselves to the limit and never say a word about feeling ill, cause that how guys are sometimes, it’s a form of ignorance.  So it is very important to know the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.  Both if not treated properly and immediately can result in death.  Learn how to identify and how to treat.  This is the knowledge that can come in handy anywhere.
Then next time you may be the one to prevent this.  OSHA investigating after man dies picking tomatoes in Colquitt County.  A young man, only 24, beginning of his life and the heat killed him.  Know the facts about the dangers of high temperatures, how to mitigate it and what your company must supply to keep you safe and healthy.
Some may say that you shouldn’t fear to work alone and that may be true in some cases but when the company tells you to work alone in the plant on an off-shift, just say NO. Worker Found Dead In Stadium Cooler Was Minnesota Inventor.  You can never plan for an accident so why would you work alone.  If something was to fall on you or you became pinned or knocked unconscious, and no one was there to help or call for help, you’ll become the morning news when they find your body.  We always had a policy of two when work had to be done at night or weekends and others weren’t going to be around.  It just makes sense.
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When worlds collide.  Tesla, union, workers, and CalOSHA are all trying to work out or work on issues of safety.  Here is an example of fear and ignorance working together which is causing a little hatred right now.  Some disgruntled employee stole data out of their system, fingers are pointing and the truth will eventually come out as we listen to the three sides of each story.  Tesla workers say they pay the price for Elon Musk’s big promises and A former Tesla safety director claims he was fired after he raised concerns about unreported workplace injuries.  Check both articles out and curious what you think.  I don’t think he’s any more driven then Henry Ford, Thomas Edison or Howard Hughes were as I believe all geniuses are driven to the point of madness.  Whether they cross the line or not is up to them as well as what we get out of it. 
   
Well, that’s it for this month folks.  Be kind to each other and never, never keep quiet about safety for the life you save may be your own.  If you have questions about safety and regulation please don’t hesitate to ask.
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Secrets of the Professionals Revealed That You Can Use at Home – 2

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Last issue we learned how the professionals keep their facilities free of vermin and how you can implement the same practices in your own home.  Do you wonder how the large food companies keep their facilities so clean and spotless to ensure you get the highest quality product?  I don’t know about you but I don’t always remember how long ago I cleaned behind the fridge, or how often I clean the range hood grills.  Was it last month? Last year?  The professionals use a fabulous tool to track cleaning that you can as well to make sure all is done on a regular basis and it’s called a “sanitation schedule”

Sanitation Schedule

Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like.  It’s a cleaning schedule that is posted in a convenient location where everyone can see it.  It lists every component, every apparatus, every location that food touches and every other nook and cranny from receiving to production to packaging to the warehouse and finally shipping.  Also on the schedule along with each item listed is when it should be cleaned, who’s responsible to make it happen and when it did happen.  This ensures a uniform and continuous cleaning program that you can also schedule high traffic and critical areas for more intense cleaning. 

You can do the same thing for your home.  Great areas, to begin with, would be the kitchen and bathrooms.  So what do we need to clean?  Use a critical eye and look around the kitchen and break it down.  Don’t forget any surfaces.  As an example, I have behind the refrigerator scheduled as an annual chore and then for the stove vent hood, it’s done along with the grease traps and vents every other week May-Sept and then up to once a week Oct – Jan when we do more cooking and entertaining.  How about inside the refrigerator?  The door shelves, the produce storage bins, the ice bin.  All items you may miss but with your sanitation schedule, you are confident they’re clean and fully operational.  Don’t forget the pantry and other cabinets as well that you use to store food items.  When you’re cleaning them also keep an eye out for signs of infestation like mouse droppings and that food is properly sealed so it won’t entice unwanted visitors.   

Get the kids involved too by allowing them to make a  cleaning schedule for their own rooms as well as other cleaning chores you may assign them.  This is also the perfect time of year to get this started and a great habit to develop.  So get your sanitation schedule together, (please feel free to change and tailor the name to suit your needs) and then you can run your household just like a professional.

Want to learn more?  It’s easy.  You can begin by subscribing to this blog or you can also research it or google it.  Try the term HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) to get you started.  Remember, there is no such thing as a stupid question.

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Companies Behaving Badly-Training

 

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Welcome back and thanks for stopping by.  Hope your April Fools Day wasn’t too brutal.

There is no doubt in my mind that TRAINING is the most important aspect of any safety program.  Having employees who know what to do and how to do it without losing fingers, limbs or their lives makes for a fabulously productive shift.  However training is not a one time deal but a continuous process, assembling the many layers over time such as first-day safety orientation, monthly safety meetings, weekly tailgate/toolbox meetings, daily huddles, emergency drills, PPE, LOTO, operating different or new machinery, forklift certification, and refreshers.  The more opportunities to have an open discussion on safety along with input from everyone involved makes it all the better.

To be successful at training means you got the point you wanted to make across to the group while being focused and with a little entertaining in your message that is geared to your audience.  When you tell your fable of safety to the group and end with the moral of the story you want to sound real, you want to sound credible so use situations that have occurred on other shifts or as sister plants or in trade magazines.  When speaking to a group of young new workers you don’t want to sound like a lecturing dad, they’ll just tune you out and they’ll never hear the message.  It helps to get them involved in the training.  What’s their experience with this piece of machinery.  What are their concerns and how would they handle an emergency shut off or LOTO on the packaging machine you’re featuring in this weeks tailgate/toolbox meeting.  Also, use handouts, videos, and demonstrations to help your presentation.

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It does take work to ensure all the training.  When I had 64 employees working at 10 different stations on a shift, to get the weekly toolbox/tailgate completed you need to stagger the meeting.  Went to the first station and spoke with the 5 workers there about the topic and got feedback, then continued down the hall to the next station and spoke with the 7 workers there and continued throughout the shift until I had made contact with all.  If there were no fires to put out that shift I might get to all 64 but sometimes it takes two days to get it done.  To accomplish a monthly safety meeting I’d split the shift in half to keep production going, limited but at least not stopped and do one group early in the shift and the second half after first breaks.  There are always ways to get it done, don’t be afraid to be creative.  Even though these meetings are critical you can’t help but take some time away from production and that’s where some companies go crazy.

Thirty minutes for a safety meeting!? Did you guys have a party last night?  Those are just a few of the comments I would get but didn’t care since wasn’t about to discourage people from asking questions or interrupting them while they discuss a serious safety concern.  But this too is solvable by making friends with the head production scheduler.  We sat down and had coffee and learned about each other’s goals and for those days he could give us light nights I would get safety meetings done and still make our daily production goals.  Win, win.

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However, there are still those companies that believe spending money on training is a waste.  As our friends at, Dollar Tree stores cited again and fined maximum for putting workers at risk This has become an annual event finding the same safety violations occurring again and again and now the state of Washington is fining them $306,000 for willful violations.  Willful means the company knew they were putting workers in danger but didn’t bother to do anything about it.  It’s kind of hard not to block emergency exits or electrical panels when you’re not trained on safety hazards.  It’s hard to work safely with chemicals when your employer doesn’t train you how to properly use chemicals and how to safely and properly clean up a spill.  The problem is not just putting employees in danger but any customer entering the store to do business.  I would think twice if it were me.  Corporate could easily fix this, but then that would require thought, carrying out a plan and spending money which are all things I don’t think this company’s executives are capable of doing.

It’s nice to enjoy your job, that’s fabulous but if you get stoned on the job, what if an emergency arises?  Too Many Cannabis Industry Employees Impaired At Work.  This is a serious problem and a big liability to the owners.  Bartenders are not allowed to drink on the job and I know a lot of Cannabis clubs forbid smoking by employees on the premises since in the case of an emergency someone needs to be in charge and alert!  Needless to say, I’m sure their training covered this and it’s up to the club to enforce the rules or they lose their credibility.  It’s a shame that it’s always a few the ruin it for the rest of us due to their ignorance. 

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The Welsh government understands the importance of refresher safety training and are offering workshops to local farmers so they can avoid being part of the rise in farm-related accidents.  Farmers urged to kick-start health and safety training.  Nice to see they are not looking for reasons to fine them but working with them so they can continue to be productive and in one piece.  As it should be.

This professor says the workplace is the fifth leading cause of #death in the U.S.  Did you hear that?  5th leading cause.  This professor says the workplace is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S..  You can spend less time dead.  Know where emergency exits are located, listen for alarms, avoid working with distractions and most of all use all PPE that is available and use common sense.

Mark your calendars it’s Stand Down 2018–Preventing Falls in Construction : Fifth Annual Stand-Down Set for May 7-11  BE PART OF THE SOLUTION

That’s it for this episode.  If you begin a new job and there is no safety training or use of PPE then it may be time to find another job.  Never keep quiet about safety, for the life you save, maybe your own.

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