He Had One Job
“I used to work as a safety consultant for an insurance broker. One of our clients 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 some else was walking by and hit the emergency stop. It saved his life.”
She Definitely Should Have Known Better
“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.”
Don’t Mess With The Marine Inspectors
“I’m a Port State Inspector. For me and most of my colleagues, the biggest problems always relate to fire safety, particularly fire doors. The amount of time I’ve found auto closing doors tied, wedged, weighted or just fixed in the open position is maddening. Fire is the worst thing that can happen on a ship, and these doors have to be able to be closed at any time but people are too freaking lazy to open a stupid door, so they tie them open, and then guess what? Time and time again, there is a fire and when we do the investigation (assuming there is anything left to investigate), we find a fire door fixed open that’s allowed the fire to spread. People in my industry literally die every year because some freaking AB or assistant engineer to too freaking lazy to open a door.
So that’s the most maddening. The dumbest would be when a captain tried to stop us from coming on board in the first place. For your information, if you are working in the marine industry, never try this. It will end badly for you. One of two things will happen: We will just refuse your ship access and blacklist you, or we will allow you in and then immediately detain the ship. I remember one captain stood on the gangway and tried to block me and my boss from boarding. He said, ‘This is unreasonable! We have had no time to clean up or anything!’ Then he demanded we come back after he had finished cargo operations. Hearty laughs were had and we told him he had however long it was going to take us to walk back up to the harbor master station and walk back down with the Royal Police and that in the meantime, the ship was detained.”
Maybe They Didn’t Realize They Needed Oxygen To Live
“We received a complaint about workers using liquid nitrogen inside of a confined space. I went out to this sand and gravel company and saw this 30 foot long, above-ground storage tank. There was a liquid nitrogen tank outside the opening and two workers outside. I showed my ID and discovered one of the workers outside was the foreman and the other was monitoring the air quality for the workers. All good, right? Nope.
The entrance was a small square opening at the end. There were about four workers inside the tank using liquid nitrogen to cool the tar in the tank so it could be chipped out. So, they were introducing a gas which could displace oxygen. The person doing air monitoring had a probe only a couple feet long, so it was only really checking the air quality of the fresh air mixed with tank air, NOT the air in the worker’s breathing zone. The workers were about 15′ into the tank.
They had no confined space training, no confined space permit, no rescue plan. The foreman then copped an attitude and told me I was wasting their time.
I red-tagged the operation (normally reserved for only when voluntary immediate compliance seems unlikely) and told them it was illegal for them to continue work or re-enter the tank until they met the confined space rules.
It was a pretty hefty fine – the company didn’t appeal. I think the foreman got fired as management seemed unaware that the activity was taking place and was further upset at the foreman’s reaction. Normally, sand and gravel companies in my area do a good job with health and safety – it was a rare miss for them.”
Ignorance Of The Law Almost Killed A Ton Of People
“I spent many years doing safety inspections and I have seen some ‘fun’ things in my time. I have seen industrial fan’s cords spliced onto an extension cord with the bare wires exposed and charred and the employer saying it’s fine because it still worked. An owner of a nursing home reached into a used and full needles container to prove that needles were not being recapped. A guy outside of a window on the third story of a house, on the edge of a board, removing a window pane without any fall protection while his two buddies were inside on the other side of the board holding him up (that is level of trust that I do not have with most folks).
One day, I was walking up to a house and the owners had made a makeshift driveway out of asbestos siding that they had removed from the building the previous day and I saw kids playing in the area. A compressed gas cylinder filling station would receive old cylinders and they would have to empty them prior to repairing or destroying them. the guy doing this would take them out back and, while holding his breath, would secure them and open up the valves to empty them and then go inside. This worked okay for a while until it didn’t and he got dosed with a massive exposure to arsine gas (the company usually didn’t deal with this gas but had received from one of their customers for disposal) which almost caused complete renal failure.
These are just a few that I can recall that stuck with me. There are lots and lots of run of the mill safety issues that I see all the time, but the majority of the time its ignorance of the law and not malice for most employers.”
Cross-Contaminating The Donuts
“I used to be the OSHA rep for a previous workplace that was a store with a Tim Hortons kiosk attached.
I witnessed an employee take two 5 gallon buckets of corrosive liquid (don’t remember what, but distinctly remember the symbol on the buckets) and tried to dump them down the sink we used to wash dishes for the food, with the dishes still in there.
When I caught her and pulled the buckets to the Delivery Bay Area for removal the next day, she took them that night shift and then tried to dump them down the toilet.
We were on a military base. All she had to do was pick up the phone, dial 0, and ask someone to come to pick up the buckets.
Apparently, that was too hard.”
The Worst Fire Hazard Ever And No One Cared
“I work as a Fire Safety and Health and Safety Inspector. At one of my sites, a small/medium sized shop, I was made aware of a ‘hidden’ room. There’s a narrow corridor to enter that they blocked off whenever they knew I was coming. There was no fire-door so any fire would spreads straight onto the main shopping area.
The room contained a plethora of 400/415 volt panels and was absolutely rammed with wood, cardboard boxes, and what felt like every combustible material possible, roughly 30 years worth of crap. Essentially, the mother of all fire hazards with enough immediate fuel and oxygen to burn down the building and neighboring stores.
The maddening part of it was essentially all of the staff at the shop were aware of it but did nothing to fix the issue and even actively worked to hide it. If you see a fire hazard please fix it or report it!
Also, the sole fire escape was jammed due to the door warping and would not open at all, having not been checked in the roughly two months since I was last on site.”
One Safety Delay Could Have Actually Saved Time
“My dad works on a large renovation project for a national landmark. He identified a hazard where workers putting up scaffolding would have to walk along the sloped incline of a plateau that functioned as the foundation for a construction shack, all the while carrying the scaffolding components. They didn´t have to walk up the hill, or down the hill, but along the entire width of the sloped base. This is a hazard since workers had no form of handrails/other support and could easily twist their ankles or lose their balance.
He notified the foreman about this in the morning, but the foreman didn’t think it a problem. He notified the site manager of this in response to the foreman’s apathy, but he was in meetings all morning.
That afternoon, my dad spotted a group of three guys walking on the construction site. Shorts, sandals, and no helmets. He walked up to them and said, ‘So gents, what are we doing? You know you need steel-toed boots and helmets right?’
‘Yes sir, but we’re just leaving and heading home. We all twisted our ankles and can’t continue working.’ Sure enough, all of them had scraped/bruised knees and shins. They were the workers putting up the scaffolding and every single one of them got hurt.
Half an hour later, the foreman came walking over to him, ‘What the heck do you think you’re doing, going over my head like that! I have got a schedule to finish here! Those scaffolds need to be up by tomorrow and wired by the end of the week! I don’t have time for this!’
My dad answered back, ‘I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but all the workers for the scaffolding have gone home injured. And now, since they can’t finish the scaffolding, the electricians can’t start on the wiring the day after tomorrow and the whole project is looking at a two weeks delay at least.’
All That Work, Just To Find Out How Dangerous Those Conditions Were
“I am an electrician in Las Vegas. One job site I was on was the remodel of the hotel tower at Caesars Palace. We started at the bottom floor and worked our way up the tower one floor a week for a year. It was horrible air conditions, major demolition, massive dust (because the hotel windows in Vegas don’t open in order to keep people from jumping out), they rely on exhaust fans to circulate air but don’t run the fans for the subhuman construction workers like myself. Then, after almost a year, coughing and gagging when we were on the VERY LAST FLOOR (level 44) a team of men showed up in hazmat suits and shut the job down. Apparently, all of the sparkly dust we were breathing every day was almost entirely asbestos.”
The Shortcut Costs Lives, A Business And Jobs
“I am an OSHA Inspector, but I work for a state that has their own state OSHA Plan (same as Federal OSHA but a little more strict). I can almost guarantee you that if you work construction in my state, you have seen us or we have seen you. My office, alone which is just one county, has over 40 Compliance Officers. Yes, a lot of people hate us and yes, there are some bad Compliance Officers, just like there are some bad police officers. When we come on site, we would love nothing more than to find zero violations. The amount of paperwork we have to do is astronomical. We have to treat every case as if it is going to court even though maybe only 2% do.
People die at work every day from very preventable reasons. Sometimes injuries and deaths are caused by employees not following company rules or taking shortcuts, but statistics also show that the companies with very good safety programs have lower accident rates and are typically very profitable.
As for the worst violation that I have seen: I investigated a multiple-death incident at a company. An employee entered a permit required confined space without utilizing the proper precautions. The employee became unconscious due to the inert gases that were not properly purged from the space. Another employee walked by and saw the unconscious employee, and tried to rescue him. That employee then became unconscious. Then again with another employee. Now they had three unconscious employees who all eventually died from lack of oxygen.
The company had no written confined space policy or rescue procedures. We found out after performing employee interviews that they were told to hold their breath while they performed work in the space because they were only checking a gauge and it would only take like 30 seconds.
After about $500,000 in fines and the owner actually going to jail for 5 months, the company went out of business.
And the worst part is a fire department was located across the street and they were trained in confined space rescue.”
The Smallest Rules Are Just As Important
“I was the health and safety manager for a metal-bashing company. The shop floor had designated walkways where safety shoes didn’t need to be worn but if you went off those walkways, you needed to be wearing your safety shoes. I lost count of the number of times I would be on the factory floor and see people from the offices wander into a welders bay or the manufacturing shop in non-safety shoes. The main culprits tended to be salespeople but I more than once witnessed the managing director do it.
The problem is, as any H&S/OSHA professional reading this will tell you, what appears to be trivial safety rules are there for a reason. If you get one part of the company going, ‘Yeah but those rules don’t apply to me,’ especially if those people are top management, it becomes hard to set a culture for the company.”
They Just Didn’t Care. At All.
“I do environmental compliance, specifically air pollution control.
One day, we received a complaint from a former employee of a company about a whole laundry list of stuff his former employer was doing wrong. That’s not super unusual, people get fired or quit on bad terms and call basically every agency they can think of for ‘payback.’ Anyway, we responded.
When we got there, there were a few things that weren’t right, but the icing on the cake was that they had this pollution control device that was supposed to be collecting dust from one of their processes. One problem though: all of the dust was on the ground around it. We told them in no uncertain terms that it was unacceptable, and that they needed to clean it up immediately. We also told them we would be back to make sure they did. A couple of weeks later, we scheduled a visit. I cannot stress enough that this time they knew we were coming. Guess what we saw on our return? Dust all over the ground.
The kicker is, they had this broom and shovel out there the first time, and it was still there the second time…just leaning on the wall like three feet from where it was the first time. For those keeping track, that means they either a) never cleaned up the dust, or b) that they cleaned up the dust and subsequently spilled more, but either way someone had to go out there and move the shovel. So, despite us telling them that they could not do this and that we were going to come back and make sure it was corrected, they went ahead and did actually nothing to improve the situation.
I’ve got tons of stories like this one. People do some really dumb stuff, and then get mad when the notice of violation shows up in the mail.”
What Happens When You Combine Two Morons And One Ladder
“I have so many I can barely choose. Once, I noticed workers welding on a table with their leather apron between their waist and the table. Apparently, bad wiring in the building was causing the full outlet electrical current to charge the table when the machines were set up so for years, people just knew not to touch anything near or on the table during welding work.
Once, I couldn’t stop a place from not welding outside next to their flammable cylinders.
A manager was having an employee scale lime deposits off equipment with essentially CLR and letting it just run free into the storm drain next to him. It literally dyed the pavement for over a year.
I had morons try to get something off a wall in a warehouse. One held the base of a ladder (standard, not A-frame) while the other got to the top rung and started jumping to reach whatever it was. I shouted to them and the moron holding the base turned to look at me and let go; as you can imagine, Moron 2 had a quick trip back to the ground.”
Some Companies Just Won’t Listen
“I’m a health and safety inspector at my workplace. I recently had management trying to pin a couple of guys on my shift for putting a pallet of product too close to a fire hose.
Ok fair, yeah it’s a safety issue. The only problem was more than half of the fire hoses on site are blocked or inaccessible due to rows of product blocking them.
Poor storage planning on managements behalf, yet one pallet near a fire hose was enough to cause a written warning and talks of terminating said employees.
Safe to say when I politely pointed out how many safety hazards and violations that were the fault of the management. They quickly dropped their talks of terminating employees.
Still working on getting those other fire hoses unblocked though. Like banging your head on a brick wall sometimes I swear.”