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Posts Tagged ‘workplace’

US Safety Deserves A Pat on the Back (a preliminary one anyway)

September 24, 2012 Leave a comment

U.S. Safety Professionals deserve a pat on the back for the job they did in 2011. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced Thursday in a preliminary report that annual workplace fatalities fell by 81 incidents in the past year.

What does this mean?  We are improving the safety of the American workplace.

The report also highlights some interesting trends worth noting.  41% of all work related fatalities in 2011 were involving traffic incidents, with truck transportation fatalities climbing by 14% alone.

17% of all work related fatalities dealth with violent, deliberate actions (a.k.a. On-The-Job homocide, animal attacks, or suicide).

On a favorable note, deaths in the private construction sector decreased by 7%.  Safety messages and practices are getting through to more employees.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes their preliminary numbers in late summer/early fall.  The final report is issued in the spring of the following year.  Traditionally the adjusted, final report is within 3% of the preliminary report.  The report in its entirety can be found at http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cfoi.htm

So preliminarily (if that is truly a word) the US Safety Industry deserves a pat on the back, that is, unless you are in transportation with a beef against someone you work with.  Then all bets are off.

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Production Jobs…More than the stereotypes suggest.

August 13, 2012 Leave a comment

A Factory Worker recruitment poster.

I have been working in production now for four years and have come across a similar reaction when describing my job to friends and family.  That well it won’t be forever look and the consoling words that come from the desk jockeys who have never operated an industrial machine in their lives can be infuriating. 

Indeed the fairytale of WWII factory workers building the equipment to safe the lives of American soldiers overseas has long since devolved away to an all time low, in my almost humble opinion.  Low Education, Loves physical labor, bottom of the barrel…such is the stereotype of the American factory worker.   

I started looking around the web for some comforting news about the image of factory workers.  My google search first turned up a yahoo answers page.  The question (What is the stereotype of a factory worker?) was answered by three people:

  1. PepperEva said, “They had some tough luck. Maybe they made bad choices, maybe things happened that they couldn’t control, maybe they like working a factory. Maybe they want to run one some day. I generally just think, huh, a job. I doubt I’ll get a steady job doing what I love. I’ll probably take the work I can get and do what I love in my free time.”
  2. Apple Jacks said, “uneducated.”
  3. Vanessa said, “Poor.”

…not a very reassuring find for the image of the factory worker.

The Actuality

As I was bouncing around safety blogs and came across an article in www.impomag.com that gave some stark facts that describe the reality of factory workers.  The article was written by Nancy Syverson, Managing Editor.  It is entitled, “Who Works in Your Plant?  A Profile of Today’s American Factory Worker.” 

Today’s factory workers are educated and well paid

Syverson’s article had some facts:

Myth: Factory workers are low paid. 

  • Fact: According to recent reports, the average manufacturing wage is $54,000 per year, 18% higher than the average U.S. wage.

Myth: Factory workers are high-school dropouts.

  • Fact: Some 78% of the manufacturing workforce has a high-school or greater education.

Myth: Factory jobs require vocational education, which attracts students who are less qualified in other areas.

  • Fact: According to NAM, today’s manufacturers seek a range of skills that include hands-on abilities as well as math, science and computer use.

Myth: You have to be a union member to work in a factory.

  • Fact: Unions represents only about 20% of all factory workers, down from 25% five years ago. Currently 22 right-to-work states give factory workers the choice of belonging to a union or not.

Myth: The burden of benefit costs have been shifted to the employee in manufacturing as in other industries.

  • Fact: More than 80% of manufacturers still pay the bulk of employees’ medical benefits, including dental.

Myth: Factory work requires physical labor and can be dangerous.

  • Fact: Certain factory work will always require physical labor, but automation and ergonomic awareness have reduced that type of work, resulting in a 40% decrease in workplace injuries over the past decade.

Using current demographic data, a new picture of the modern factory worker emerges. Tough, hardworking and determined, America’s factory workers are faced with challenges that often require more smarts than strength.

Some further digging found an article published in www.breakingout.net by Kevin Wells.  His article Why It’s Important to Cut Loose contrasts working in production and working in a cubical.  “The term “factory workers” doesn’t have to be taken literally,” Wells says, “Most people in the Western world nowadays are actually office workers, but – same difference. In the West, office work is the new factory work.  When I worked in offices the people I encountered were pretty much the same as the old factory worker stereotype. It makes not a jot of difference whether you are blue collar or white collar.”

My Experience

I work with Pepperidge Farm in Utah, where we make roughly 1/3 of all goldfish crackers produced.  I can count a half-dozen other employees I personally deal with daily on the production floor that have at least a Bacheller’s degree.  Pepperidge Farm pays better than most jobs in the area and we all know that there are lists of people waiting to get a shot working here.  The factory uses more machines than manual labor, which creates the rise of computer savvy machine operators.  These operators are highly skilled problem solvers who invest themselves in the million-dollar machines they operate.

Yes the American factory worker is in dire need of a PR campaign.  This down-and-out reputation does not reflect the dedication, education and technical skill that is mandatory in today’s workforce.

Crying Wolf

July 16, 2012 Leave a comment

I came into work recently and immediately got caught up in the rumor mill.  Earlier that day an employee caught his finger in a cog of a machine.  There was blood, screaming, and a fingertip found on the floor as the drama unfolded.  It was a horrific experience for this unfortunate worker.

The reason I bring this up however is because the news that spread around the plant was more about the line’s reaction to the incident than this poor employee losing his fingertip.

The incident went like this:

  1. The employee stuck his finger in a hole of his machine
  2. His fingertip pinched off.
  3. He screamed bloody murder.
  4. No one looked up.

….ehhhhhh…huh?

The most surprising, and talked about, part of the whole ordeal was the employee who held up a cookie a second  later, still not looking up, and said, “blood!”   Truly not one soul bothered to look up and see the emergency unfolding less than 10 feet away.  Many of the line workers didn’t know it happened until the cleaning crew started sanitizing the line.

Now how could this happen?  Was it because the workers on the line could care less?  In this case no.  Was it because of noise or distance from the scene?  Nope; Line workers talk to each other the entire day.  The issue here is simply over stimulation….that is to say, crying wolf.

Crying Wolf

In Aesop’s Fable, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” a boy assigned to watch the town flock of sheep.  He gets bored and decides to have some fun with the townsfolk by repeatedly crying, “Wolf!” to the startled townspeople.  After a few false alarms a wolf does come and attack the flock.  The boy sounded the alarm, but the townspeople weren’t going to be startled again.  His false alarms had overstimulated them and they simply shut him down.  They paid no attention to him. 

Such it is with the wolf criers of today.  Those who feed off of the attention they get startling others at work will find themselves alone when their jokes become sincere pleas for help.

This highlightes a major safety factor, that of believability.  In our finger incident described above, this employees believablility was shot months previous because of his loud and boisterous antics on the line.  As believability decreases a safety gap increases. 

As one becomes less believable to their peers, a major safety risk grows.

 So what can be done about the crying wolf syndrome?  Well, one manager I know has banned speaking on the line at all. Not an extremely popular move from the employees’ point of view, but increadibly effective from a safety standpoint.  

Short of banning communication (bold and absolute), education is really the only solution.  A “Crying Wolf” campaign with announcements, posters, memos, daily monitoring by administration and assigned workers, whatever suites the need of the facility. 

Fortunately for our unfortunate employee, his fingertip was reattatched.  He has another gory story to get attention with.  Once back on the line, he has learned a harsh lessson.  Howl at the moon on your own time, but at work never, ever, EVER cry wolf.