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Getting Boss to Take Safety Seriously
7

Getting Boss to Take Safety Seriously

Getting Boss to Take Safety Seriously

(OP)
Don't know if this is the right forum for this or not, but I'm an almost fresh out of college cheme working in a lab technician capacity. However I'm often in the plant. The company I work for is pretty small and self-built. They have only just reached the size where they fall under OSHA and other regulators.

While there are no immediate impending dangers at the plant (I don't know if I'm even qualified to say that) there hasn't been any analysis of hazards or risks with how things are operated or about any of our storage tanks, reacting tanks, or other process equipment. There are no SOP's. No lock-out/Tag-out beyond "hey that's busted, don't use it right now." I've tried to bring up safety compliance 2 or 3 times over the past 6 months, but I get rebuffed about most of it. There have been some acknowledgement that we could be doing better, but no substantial changes. I mean, I guess I got them to buy spill kits.... I like this company and the workers a lot, and I don't want to get anyone in trouble or shut down. At the same time, it feels like it's only a matter of time before a lack of focus on safety catches up to us. We installed some storage tanks and had one of them pop-up and be at risk of falling over: https://www.eng-tips.com/viewthread.cfm?qid=456267

Does anybody know of methods to frame and start a discussion about safety/regulatory compliance that helped their boss/management take it seriously? To at least make an evaluation of where the company currently stands? Especially when the boss has the mindset that regulators are out to ticket/fine companies, and that it is better to ask forgiveness than permission?

At what point are you ethically/legally obligated to report a company to OSHA? I don't know if we have any violations or not, but a lot of the place feels slapped together, or like there wasn't any analysis done before construction/operation outside of what works practically for the operators. We haven't had any major injuries, just some skin sensitivities to getting raw material on arms and that sort of thing.

*sigh* I don't want to sound whiny/ranty but I just am not sure how to move forward, and feel out of my depth.

RE: Getting Boss to Take Safety Seriously

First off I'd get any requests and denial of requests in writing, just in case.

I'd be surprised if LOTO doesn't apply to your facility at all, so not following that is a red flag. "We've never had an issue before" doesn't quite cut it.

Personally, if I saw someone doing maintenance or work on a device/system that wasn't locked out (breaker just flipped, pump turned off, whatever) I'd be inclined to make a phone call if the managers aren't doing their due diligence in keeping everyone safe.

RE: Getting Boss to Take Safety Seriously

OSHA offers a lot of guides and resources for general and specific compliance requirements as well as safe practice guides:

General Program Guidelines: OSHA Safety & Health Program Management Guidelines

General Compliance Handbook: OSHA Small Business Handbook

Specific Program Samples & Guides: OSHA Sample Programs

Those are just some of the things I've been using this past year to get the company I joined a few months ago up-to-speed with regard to OSHA compliance and safety.

There's a ton of information to sift through, but it is a necessity if you intend to do business and not put people's safety and health at risk.

Andrew H.
www.mototribology.com

RE: Getting Boss to Take Safety Seriously

fruityhotpocket,

I am working for a small, high technology start-up, and I have just lectured a bunch of youngsters on laser safety. The company does not have a laser safety officer (LSO), and probably does not understand the concept. I am discussing the management of 100+kg parts with my boss, and I am emphasizing the importance of using a spreader bar and a hoist or fork lift to raise these things straight up. I am satisfied that for our product, chassis slides are a bad idea. Hernias are a bad idea too.

In a previous job, I had to inform a project manager (and the vice present and the CEO) that he and his idiot buddy were not qualified to design pressure vessels. It did not go over well. Thirty years later, I do not wonder what would (not) have happened had I not been a coward, and I sleep at night.

Be tactful.

If something looks scary, you can ask about it on Eng-Tips. Perhaps a print-out of the replies will be the ammo you need for subsequent discussion. My big incident was way prior to the internet.

--
JHG

RE: Getting Boss to Take Safety Seriously

That can go sideways, though, so if you are at the point, be prepared to be walked out the door, particularly if someone at the top sees their "dirty laundry" on the internet

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Getting Boss to Take Safety Seriously

(OP)
RVAmeche
It seems like those conversations are always pushed to happen verbally, but yeah from here on out I'm going to try and have an email record/keep notes on our conversations.

IRstuff
Honestly I've been looking for other work for a myriad of reasons, safety being one of them. However, being walked out is what I'm trying to avoid. I did ask him about posting that issue online before doing so, and made sure to keep any landmarks out of the photos. I don't think he'll fire me for bringing safety up again, but he might get testy.

I appreciate the OSHA resources SuperSalad, but mainly I'm trying to find a way to start the conversion in a positive way. I want to be able to get him to see the necessity of coming into compliance, and that it's not about mundane regulations, it's about keeping his financial and human investments safe. Pretty sure that HR has handled and posted the 300 logs, but we haven't done a hazard determination.

Has anyone else had to start a conversation about it? And Drawoh, looking back is there anything you would rephrase in that conversation? What other safety/regulatory come-to-Jesus moments have you had?

RE: Getting Boss to Take Safety Seriously

If financial incentives are the driving force, here you go: OSHA Raises Employer Penalties for 2019

Those repercussions can begin as soon as a disgruntled employees contacts OSHA with concerns over their safety, or from an injury where OSHA needs to be notified and a compliance officer comes for a visit.

Also, having to train replacement employees after injuries or death of current experienced employees is always a drain on the pocketbook.....

A positive way to start the conversation is...."Hey, because you are such a great employer and since I know that you are very conscious of the safety and well being of your employees, did you now we could formalize some programs here to make sure that everyone is on-board and following good practices?"

It's much more positive than saying, "Pull your head out of your ass and stop putting the safety and well being of others in jeopardy because you can't be bothered to take the minimum steps toward compliance.", which it seems would be more appropriate.

It is never a fun conversation to have, believe me, I know, but you either take the steps or suffer the consequences. Accidents happen, and I know I would have a hard time sleeping at night if I knew the risks and didn't at least try to force a change to prevent it.

Andrew H.
www.mototribology.com

RE: Getting Boss to Take Safety Seriously

3
In manufacturing and operations there are only two things, safety and quality.
Productivity, out put, profit , and everything else derive from those.
Forty years ago it wasn't uncommon for both of these programs to be rather loose and not well defined.
Today I don't see how a company can function without both being very robust.
One resource that is hit-or-miss is your insurance company. I have worked with some very good loss prevention specialists over the years. And some that were not so much...
Often the way to broach both subjects is when new equipment/process is being implemented. It is a logical time to ask if we are doing this in the safest and most productive way.
I have never had an employee killed or permanently disabled, but I have seen a few serious accidents that could have lead to either.
Very not fun.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
P.E. Metallurgy, Plymouth Tube

RE: Getting Boss to Take Safety Seriously

fruityhotpocket,

In retrospect, I probably could have been more tactful. Probably, it would not have helped.

At a recent job interview, I was asked about how I managed conflicts, and I brought up the incident. At the end of the interview, they told me they would think about it and get back to me in a week or so. I left thinking "You f**king idiot. Why did you bring that up?" When I arrived at work and hour later, I found out I had got the job. I figure the company rates a nine or ten out of ten for office politics and professionalism. It was too bad it was a temporary contract.

I suggest you read The Smartest Guys in the Room. The book is very different from the video. The authors were trying to write a management textbook. Andrew Fastow was recommended to Enron as "lacking a moral compass". This was just what Enron thought they needed.

--
JHG

RE: Getting Boss to Take Safety Seriously

Stay positive, start small (read: cheap), and push safety as a benefit to both the company and employees. You might be able to sell a safety initiative as benefitting a specific corporate goal or sales in general, possibly also as an educational benefit to employees. Customers, suppliers, and other outsiders expect a safety-oriented culture today with small, cheap, visible items like SDS, PPE, around the plant. Not being visibly safety-conscious could hurt sales. SDS only cost ink & paper to print offline and hang on the wall, the same with the motivational "work safely!" reminder posters. PPE is a few nickels more and may get some negative reaction from employees but makes everything look more professional. If you have cranes or other "fun" work, a safety class as part of cross-training employees prevents downtime and is also enjoyable for employees. You can also individually start tandardizing and documenting process to not only improve safety but also quality. Once you have the basics covered, then you can afford to start getting nitpicky on details. Good luck regardless.

RE: Getting Boss to Take Safety Seriously

2
It sounds like your company may not be concerned about safety because they have a false impression everything is safe since they have not had any accidents. If that's the case, it simply means they are lucky, not safe.

If safety is ignored, I would leave the company because one day YOU could be the victim of someone else's carelessness. No thanks.

RE: Getting Boss to Take Safety Seriously

Another approach with your boss could be that investigating safet aspects also forces the plant operators to a take a fresh and comprehensive look at all their operations. It is possible, though far from guaranteed, that they find possible improvements to quality, energy use etc.

RE: Getting Boss to Take Safety Seriously

If you keep EdStainless advice in mind and take CWB1's execution plan as an example, I think you have a good chance at some changes provided that others really believe that "we can be doing better". A company that I was recently with is coming out of the self-built phase after a larger company bought them. There are corporate safety standards and goals now, but the implementation and compliance to the new ways of working were doing well following the "start small" approach - and many people across the board quickly understood the logic EdStainless mentioned in terms of whey it made business sense.

Also, if the company is hitting a growth spurt, the chances of luck running out go up substantially with every new person hired. Unless there is some contingency of people able to articulate the importance of safety at the onset of the growth, it is easy to sideline safety concerns because "we were too busy".

Best of luck.

RE: Getting Boss to Take Safety Seriously

Fruityhotpocket,
I do not know what state your company operates in, but some states require a weekly or monthly safety meeting as referenced on the top line of Super Salads post ( OSHA Safety & Health Program Management Guidelines) . Which in a lot of companies tends to get run by one of the employees reading off a sheet, with no clue as to what they are really doing. Everybody walks away from these feeling good, but more dangerous than ever. Now there are professional companies who do these safety meetings for small companies for a fee. If you can persuade your boss that this would free up his people for more productive work, you may be able to get the camels nose under the edge of the tent. Once these people are in they will quickly see what needs doing, and your boss may take suggestions from an outside entity in the business of safety where he would not from his own employees.
B.E.

You are judged not by what you know, but by what you can do.

RE: Getting Boss to Take Safety Seriously

Another approach is to look at if from an insurance point of view. Will a safety program provide a discount on insurance rates?

This is something that state and local governments often try to help growing small businesses with through consulting.

Another way to promote it to management is that is required for growth. If they are thinking that safety concerns are preventing them from reaching the next goal they will be more interested.

Plastics News had several good article on safety recently.

I liked the approach to lock out tag out one place I worked used. They issued everyone a lock with their picture on it. that made it personal.

RE: Getting Boss to Take Safety Seriously

I know you're asking specifically about safety stuff, but the underlying question you're asking is - how do I effectively and tactfully question my manager/superior?
This is never easy, but a lot rides on your ability to have a legitimate relationship with your manager. Does he trust you to do good work? Are you honest about what you've accomplished?
From a leadership/team building perspective, it is critical to have trust and psychological safety, which leads to helpful conflict. I say helpful conflict in that we are bringing up disagreements for the better of the company, not just to toot our own horn or get what we want. When that is your mission, and if you can show that you have the good of the company in mind, your manager will be more likely to listen.

There's never a perfect opportunity to have difficult conversations. You're young in your career - the earlier you can practice having them, the better. Many engineers avoid them.

Jeff Perry
morethan-engineering.com

RE: Getting Boss to Take Safety Seriously

It is a difficult period for companies which start as a "mom and pop" type operation and slowly grow and add things until they become too big to do things on a relatively informal level.

I re-read and remember your previous post and the lack of engineering design and experience was palpable in what was being done.

Fortunately for you there are rules and regulations in place to try and prevent companies like this from just ignoring safety issues and procedures and carrying on like accidents don't happen to me.

It sounds like the main man is not experienced in anything else and hasn't seen operations from a larger organization where safety is a key consideration. Hence, a bit like quality, he doesn't see it as something which makes his business better, stronger and more profitable, but something which is a noose, tying him down by petty regualtions and fines.

That attitude is very difficult to change I'm afraid so I really think you are to be applauded for recognizing this and trying to do something about it.

Unless you have some more senior / experienced people to confide in and seek support / back up then I really think your only option is to contact the local OSHA office and explain the situation. All reports from employees are supposed to be confidential, but this might not stop some finger pointing and blaming if / when OSHA come to call. Hence lying low and not being seen as the one asking questions might help you.

You could try to get OSHA to simply turn up on some pretext that someone from outside the company ( a customer, supplier, contractor) had advised or simply that once a company exceeds some sort of limit ( turnover, amount of chemical stored on site etc etc) that they have now come on the radar and need to conduct an audit of process and procedures.

Despite all the legal protection in the world, trying to change a company culture from within at a junior level is simply going to result in you leaving the company, voluntarily or forced out.

I don't envy you the situation, but if it is handled correctly then positive benefits will ensue. Good luck and let us know how it goes.

Remember - More details = better answers
Also: If you get a response it's polite to respond to it.

RE: Getting Boss to Take Safety Seriously

OSHA has many non-penalty focused initiatives, too. For example, you could propose that your employer contacts your regional OSHA office for information about their On-Site Consultation Services. These are no cost inspections/consultations (primarily for smaller companies as you seem to be a part of) to help guide them into compliance. Issues found during the consultation are not subject to penalties (though I'm sure they have some sort of time limit to fix them). You could use the threat of penalties to leverage them into contacting for consultation. Do your own hazard identification, figure out (roughly) what the penalties might cost should one or two of the hazards result in a recordable incident/OSHA infraction, and suggest they seek help. This way you can frame yourself as being concerned not only for the safety of the workers, but also productivity and the bottom line.

I am fortunate to work for a large manufacturer that puts safety at the forefront. There is an issue, though, that you may want to consider as it will inevitably come up for you. I say safety is at the forefront, and management at all levels preach safety above all else from dawn to dusk, but it doesn't always penetrate to the front line employees who spend 90% of their day in and around the hazards we're talking about. Making safety an integral part of the company culture can be hard to do, regardless of whether or not the boss wants to do it.

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