Good Morning Weigand-Omega Team!
Today’s topic was brought about by something that happened at a store I was in the other day. I think that it is a true reflection of safety attitudes we sometimes allow ourselves to take. I won’t mention this store by name, but let’s just say that everything with-in, has the exact same cost per item…..!
Anyway, I had just walked past a couple of employees who were busily assembling and stocking a shelving rack when I heard a crash and turned in time to see that the top shelf, which was mostly stocked with plastic bottles of soap and shampoo, had fallen down and was now more or less on top of the employee who had been working on the shelving below it. After helping to disentangle the employee, who fortunately suffered no serious injury, I scanned the components of the shelving unit itself and I could see that the slots the shelf fit into showed a lot of wear. Being just a little safety conscious about stuff like this, I mentioned that to the both of them. Below is the gist of the conversation that followed:
Me; “That was a close call. I see the parts look worn out which is probably what caused it to fall.”
Employee 1; “Oh yeah, it’s fallen before.”
Employee 2; “We’ve all known for a while that this unit had issues.” While shrugging shoulders.
Me; “Sounds like you should report it to the manager.”
Employee 2; “I told the store manager about it more than a month ago, but nothing was done.” While shrugging shoulders again.
Me; “Yikes!” I truly couldn’t think of anything more at that moment to say.
Employee 1; “We don’t think we are taken very seriously.”
Me, recovering somewhat; “Sounds like you should report it again. But I certainly wouldn’t try to reinstall it.” As employee 2 is actively attempting to do that!
Employee 2; “The store manager will be angry if we don’t get this completed today.” Continuing to fit the shelving back together.
Me; “Well….” Struggling again to find words.
Employee 1, who the shelf had just fallen onto; “My manager was working with me when it fell on me before.”
Me; “What?” I am often at a momentary loss for words apparently.
The remaining conversation devolved into almost animalistic grunts on my part and does not effectively add to the message I want to convey here, but first, who do you think is at fault? How about the employees? After all, both knew the shelving had issues and it even fell on one of them previously. What about the manager? According to the employees, he/she had been notified about it previously and then, had even witnessed the unit fall onto one of them! Who is responsible here? If you pick the manager, you’re right. If you think that it’s employees 1 & 2, you are also right. As a matter of fact, the situation was almost compounded even further, because the employees were trying to put the shelf back together possibly exposing others to injury, and was only stopped because it would no longer stay together. I also got the distinct impression that the only way the manager was going to be made aware again that that shelf had fallen was because it could now no longer hold any product for sale.
The bottom line for this scenario is that everyone has blame. Let’s make sure that we never make this kind of mistake in our own workplaces. If we see, know of, or have someone tell us that a hazard exists it is our responsibility to mitigate it. As an employee, we must do all that is within our power to correct it and if we cannot, we must report it to our managers, but don’t just say it once and let it go if something isn’t done. Report it again if necessary and include HR. As managers, we must act on anything that our team members, or others, bring to us. Let’s not let them feel like their concerns are not relevant or simply take no action. If you can’t solve it yourself, you can always reach out to others within the company for ideas.
In fact, the more we share our own possibly unique safety situations the more the company, as a whole, helps keep its employees safe. Please note that it is also important to always report our near misses. These are situations where something almost happened, or maybe a really minor injury that didn’t require a doctor visit occurred. There is value in reporting even the smallest of incidents because if they never are we don’t get the opportunity to see if there is a way to avoid them in the future. Sometimes the small things can be changed and help us avoid having the big ones occur. There is absolutely no benefit to waiting until the next time someone is “fortunately” uninjured, or worse, actually is.
Have a great week and be safe!
Director of Facilities Services