People do some really stupid things. It's insane what safety inspectors deal with. They are faced on a daily basis with people that are seemingly trying to severely injure or even kill themselves.
We've collected a bunch of stories that you have to read to believe! Health and safety inspectors are often maligned, but you'll appreciate them a whole lot more when you read how crazy people can be and how many lives the inspectors save.
Not The Sharpest Blade In The Shredder
“I did worker’s comp insurance for a bit.
I saw this on CCTV for evidence
A factory that made foam for mattresses had a machine that would cut up medium sized chunks of foam into smaller ones to put into mattresses. Sort of like a wood chipper.
One guy got tired of putting handfuls at a time (the recommended way) and decided to get a bucket and starts shoveling foam into the cutter. When it got stuck from too much foam, he used the stick part of a broom to push it through. This got the broom stuck. He then decided to put both hands in to dislodge the stick and the stuck foam.
The machine was still on this whole time. He somehow managed to get the stick out and the blades started going again.
He amazingly only lost two fingertips. Of course, he tried to sue his boss.
We settled for $30k.”
Hot Electricity Kills
“I interned at OSHA. I got to ride around with a former electrical union superintendent and I’m still telling stories to this day. As an intern they honestly let me ask anything. The inspectors were so glad that someone actually respected them and wanted to learn so they just spilled.
Personally, the worst I saw was a couple dozen guys hung their coats over the hot commercial electrical box that they had pigtailed their broken radio directly into. The OSHA inspector saw it and just turned to them and said, ‘Do you have a family? Do you ever want to see them again?’
It turned out the crew chief had a brand new baby girl at home. He basically cried his face off about how stupid they were and shut it down until they could make it safer. No fines were issued. Even though it could’ve bankrupted all 3 companies on site.
In case you don’t know, that amount of electricity would kill you in the worst way (unable to let go and feeling every single shock) and leave you a pile of dust.”
When Osha Shows Up, The Problems Start Piling Up
“I used to be the program manager for a non-profit that did humanitarian aid.
We transported food product to third world countries and tried to stop world hunger.
We had to have an inspection in one of our Florida warehouses.
OSHA guy shows up on the day we have a bunch of volunteers helping out. We love our volunteers greatly, but they’re not always the best workers.
First things first: we ship food products, so we have to have impeccable food standards. One volunteer decided to grab his junk and smack it on another volunteer in jest. Other volunteer responded in kind. This isn’t really OSHA guy’s realm but he marks it up.
Another volunteer is technically a certified forklift operator; he is also (unbeknownst to us) kinda under the influence. OSHA guy smells it and questions him. Instead of just saying no, he admits to being high.
Another volunteer is doing some washing of empty bins. He apparently doesn’t understand why mixing bleach and ammonia is bad and is first rinsing them with an ammonia solution and following it with bleach wipes.
Final volunteer: she is making a fuss about having to be forced to have someone hold her ladder to reach the higher shelves. She convinces the guy holding her ladder to go do something else. While OSHA inspector is there, she falls from said ladder and breaks an ankle.
I swear to god we didn’t have that many issues the entire time I worked there until that very day.”
He Doesn’t Want To Help
“I work in an office and was voluntold to join our OHSA committee as I have my occupational first aid level 2.
I hate that it costs me an hour a week.
We have these meetings where we talk about boxes being piled too high, patches of carpet that are slightly pealed up, cords in meeting rooms that could be tripping hazards, but I could live with that.
What bores into the soul of me and makes me want to storm out of these meetings is the discussions around reminders that we should send out to all staff.
Our staff are adults and they work entirely inside. They don’t need to be told things like ‘it’s almost summer, remember to wear sunscreen when outdoors’ or ‘the weather is changing, make sure you have winter appropriate tires on your vehicle!’
Plus, I have responded to a few emergencies and learned that people are idiots in emergencies.
We had a woman have a stroke and they called our first aid line. I was up from my desk and the other two attendants were off. Someone found out I was in a meeting and came to get me. The woman was delirious, in a state of quasi-consciousness, unable to move, unresponsive and NO ONE CALLED 911! Instead they freaking called me? I have a kit with some band-aids! Anyway, I got there, called 911, took her vitals, and waited for the professionals to get there.
Another instance a woman had passed out in the women’s bathroom, hit her head, was bleeding and had been unconscious. Again, no one called 911! I get there and it was just low blood sugar, she had skipped breakfast, bikes to work, felt dizzy and went to the washroom to take a break when she passed out and hit her head. Just call 911.
So anyway I have asked a bunch of times that we put out a note that the first thing to do for any medical emergency is call 911, but it hasn’t happened.”
Why You Always Read The Paperwork…
“I used to work at a temp agency and we sent workers to a printing company when they needed to push out things like mailers or newspaper coupon books.
One day the press jammed. The operator halted the machine and cleared out the jam from ‘the nippers,’ which one must access through a safety window. The nippers are basically two giant metal rollers that pull the paper between them. When a jam happens, they cut out all the jammed stuff and throw it on the ground, but little bits are left in the machine that shake out on their own. The operator asked my employee to clean up the junk and went around to the front of the machine and started it up. He meant to clean the garbage on the ground, not any leftover bits in the machine, which our employees sign waivers and do training saying they will stay away from those areas. Yet she messed up.
He turned the machine on. Her hand was in the nippers. Basically they rolled her hand through the machine before the operator heard the screaming and halted the machine.
To get her hand back out, he had to roll it again, in reverse. Imagine reversing a steamroller to get it off someone.
Four of her fingers were completely degloved, two were totally destroyed. She’s got a thumb, and a pinky finger and sort of a hybrid between her forefinger and middle finger because of how messed up the joints were smashed.
Pretty sure she got a $3 million settlement even though there was loads of documentation saying she was trained on the machine and was aware she should never go near it.”
The Committee Head Had The Dumbest Fail
“I was on the Workplace Health and Safety committee. The committee head at the time decided to change a lightbulb. Do you think that she used a step ladder on the sloped surface? Nope, office chair with wheels and nobody to hold it still. So many stupid decisions in that last sentence. Of course, she fell, broke her arm, and received workplace compensation.
The kicker? The light bulb wasn’t blown, she was just using the wrong light switch.”
The Perfect Tornado Plan
“I worked in a large sporting goods store. The tornado plan was to have everyone gather on the Archery range at the front of the store. Literally 15 feet from the massive, all-glass front of the store. Anyone who went there would have been destroyed by the glass.
I told my team that if a tornado came through to go to the bathroom that was essentially a cinder block building in and of itself, covered by reinforced concrete from the floor above and nestled inside another cinder block building. My team asked if they would be reprimanded for disobeying company policy. I told them I would have their back and it wouldn’t matter as everyone else would likely be dead.”
Jim Was “Exempt”
“I’ve worked for a couple of engineering contractors in the past, my first firm was by far the worst for lack of work ethic and sheer incompetence. OSHA would have a field day with them.
One time, our reciprocating saw broke; the foot that held the blade in place was busted, so rather than follow protocol and get another saw, my coworker fastened the blade in place with a plastic wire tie and proceeded to use it.
The same firm worked as contractors for the company my Dad worked for, so he has the best/worst stories about them. On one site, they’d found that sections of a pipeline had been sealed with asbestos gaskets. The boss of my firm (I’ll call him Jim) was present on this site and had to call in a specialist to remove the asbestos.
Jim would never wear safety gear like the other guys, claiming to be ‘exempt,’ and so when the specialist turned up in full breathing gear and overalls and tried to do his job, Jim just stood leaning on the pipe in his normal clothes talking to him. My Dad and the others are stood well away from the asbestos at this point, and he shouts out:
‘Are you immune?!’
‘Immune to what?’
‘Ah, I’ve breathed loads of it in in the power stations, it’s all political.’
My Dad says that Jim has defied all facets of medical science by staying alive this long.”
The Machine Can’t Tell An Idiot From A Box
“I used to work as a safety consultant for an insurance broker. One of our insureds had an employee who was tasked to apply a ‘Do not enter, compactor starts automatically’ sign on a cardboard box compactor. The idiot set the can of spray adhesive on the lip of the compactor, knocked it in, and then jumped in the compactor to get it. Of course, it started automatically because it’s a machine that can’t tell an idiot from a box. He’s lucky someone else was walking by and saved his life. To be clear, he went into the compactor AFTER sticking the sign to the front of it.”
Fun With Ladders!
“I recently walked onto my job site to see two of my general contractor’s subs had stacked three ladders into a pyramid with the highest ladder (all 12′) resting on the top rung of the other two ladders. First off, know that from an OSHA standpoint if you’re standing on the top rung of a ladder you’ve already messed up. These two morons were using the most dangerous part of two separate ladders to support a third freaking ladder!
Now imagine me, while Moron #1 is on the very top rung of this mecha-ladder and Moron #2 is supporting him by holding one of the lower ladders steady. My yelp of concern nearly knocked Moron #1 to his well-deserved demise. I quickly explained to them why they were morons and how to stop being morons as soon as possible.
Luckily they were only tasked with running low voltage cable. Had they been running actual conduit I’m sure they would have managed to kill themselves and burn down the building in the two hours it took me to get there in the morning.”
A Unruly Bunch Of Miners
“My father was a safety coordinator at Kennecott Copper Mine and… boy… I’ll go in order of severity:
First, there were times that he caught the crew out by the woods trying to feed apples to the deer. They had skewered the apples and were trying to reach as far over the fences as they could to coax them just a bit closer. This a disruption of the ecosystem. If these guys teach the deer that they can get food by coming up to them, then they may not go about their regular routine of forest foraging. But worse: if the deer were so inclined to find a way past the fences and start wandering around, that would be really bad. Kennecott is no small mine, they run massive machinery. If a skittish deer ran into something it shouldn’t, it could potentially halt production for an extended period of time. Plus, due to the chemicals that Kennecott uses to process their ore, they already have both the EPA as well as local Fish & Game breathing down their necks. No need to tick them off more by having an event with the wildlife.
Next, he found some guys trying to break this gigantic bolt. He came across them right at the time that one was standing under this giant wrench to hold it in place while another guy was climbing up onto some equipment and planned to jump onto the wrench. Genius, I know. The two guys got fired that day.
Then comes the story about the acid vat… During a shutdown, he came across some guys playing ‘Jack Be Nimble’ with the opening of the acid vat. Needless to say, these vats, designed to process ores, were extremely dangerous. My father came across them doing this as one guy jumped and lost his shoe in the vat. It instantly disintegrated.
Eight guys got fired that day, and the one had the balls to ask for a replacement for his shoe!
It’s probably why my dad has high blood pressure nowadays.”
A Crew Doing Nothing Right At All
“I work in Asia.
I was at a site where they were building two housing blocks very close to each other. The blocks were up to 40 floors high. The main contractor installed proper bridges with handrails to link the two blocks every 10 floors, but the workers also placed thin, unsecured planks on every floor to link the blocks. The end of the plank on the top floor looked like it was less than 3 cm away from the edge.
There were bare, live wires randomly poking from the ceilings, workers climbing on scaffolding without helmets or harnesses, workers on three-meter tall ladders and using them like stilts (rocking side to side to ‘walk’ the ladder to the next light fixture) and the workers were housed on the site in the unfinished building. Their tower crane operator turned up and climbed up the crane in wifebeater, sarong and flip flops – his excuse was that the weather was really hot that day.
That site was disastrous. My supervisor was shaking with anger by the end of the inspection.”
A Hotbed Of Poor Compliance
“I was the safety officer at a few workplaces.
The rule was this: protest the bad thing in writing. After that, it’s not your problem. The boss will break any law he sees fit and if something goes wrong, you told him so and it’s not your fault. Some businesses actually care about getting sued and the safety officer is king, yet the companies I worked for cared about daily costs and that was all. I was often asked to do things that directly went against safety rules and I would refuse but I would never stop anyone else from doing it. I was never given that authority. Managers like to keep all this kind of authority to themselves, even if they don’t know what they’re doing and they just want something done, it doesn’t matter how.
I was once asked to manually move 80lbs boxes on a regular basis. I refused as it exceeded the legal limit and I didn’t want to hurt my back. I suggested the person telling me to do it should do it themselves that way if they wanted. They apparently couldn’t as they had hurt their back. Strange coincidence yeah?
A different guy wanted me to store a 45lb box on a top unstable shelf using a ladder. I refused as it was unsafe. He put it up there himself. Two days later, the box broke as it was being retrieved, and the expensive contents were destroyed.
On another occasion, I was busy with something and someone wanted to use the forklift to shift a drum of oil. I was the driver and announced that I would be a couple of minutes. But, he was in a rush, so he said he would just do it himself. OK, whatever. Suddenly, I hear yelling and commotion. This is never good. I run out and they have pierced the drum with a tine. What’s more, they have removed the tine from the hole and the drum has fallen over. Cue me on safety mode yelling at everyone and rolling out the super expensive spill kit. Two hours later and it was decided nobody was at fault as it was the boss who did it and since he couldn’t blame anyone, nobody was to blame.
That place was a hotbed of malicious compliance. I always had to get it in writing though.”
Narrowly Avoiding Electrocution Everyday
“In college, I took an OSHA certification course and my instructor, who was an OSHA inspector, shared this story:
My instructor was inspecting a lumber mill in northern Maine and walking around the facility. The employees told him to be careful around two large milling machines in the back of the mill.
Every 10 seconds, like clockwork, a giant high voltage charge would jump between both machines, arcing over the walkway path. Apparently, all of the employees knew about it and just carefully timed when they would walk through.
That, he said, was the most glaringly obvious violation he’s ever seen, ever.”
Who Cares About Nuts?
“I worked at a convenience store that had a pizza place inside that made food for travelers.
We had to make cookies and we had about 6 kinds, two of which contained peanut butter. It was important to keep those two separate from the rest when making them because of how serious peanut allergies can be.
One day, my manager put all the cookies into one tub to bring out (they were already premade in frozen disks, we just thawed and baked them) completely contaminating all the different kind of cookies with each other. I brought it to her attention, but she didn’t care.
There were other violations when she was there, like leaving food way past its time just so she wouldn’t have to make new stuff and never dating any of the food in the fridge. She never cleaned up after herself either by wiping down counters. I’m surprised no one got food poisoning.”
He Busted Them For A Fall
“My first job was for a large grocery chain and the store’s huge walk-in freezer wouldn’t defrost. It was covered in sheets of ice and wasn’t getting fixed. When I ate it hard in there one day, slipping, falling, twisting my arm, and smacking my face, I marched my overly confident teen self over to the store manager and told him, as if he didn’t already know, that the freezer floor was covered in ice and that I had fallen and hurt myself.
He replied, verbatim: ‘Yeah! Haha! It’s like an ice skating rink in there!’
And then he walked away.
Which it was.
Which was dangerous.
So I filed a complaint with OSHA and investigators showed up THE VERY NEXT DAY. The store had to finally fix the freezer and no one else got hurt in there.”