Saturday, September 4, 2010

Breaking a personal rule

Hopefully this isn't the slippery slope into ethics failure but I feel compelled to blog about work. While work doesn't define who or what I am, it is somewhere I spend a lot of time and have a lot of emotional investment in. News that catches my eye is elevator deaths and food safety violations. I am always disappointed but not surprised when news headlines are followed by reports from employees that they tried to communicate with management about near misses but were ignored. I see this all the time.

Working for a large company I can really see the disconnect between the "slow down for safety" coming from the top down, the desire for manpower at the worker and line supervisor to work safely and the continuing drive to optimize production at all levels in between; the classic organizational culture vs. climate problem. After 10 years of trying to create a safety climate with specific training to most management, there is still a struggle to create a safety culture at the operations management level. There are metrics for shipping, receiving and incidents but without a buy in from that OpMan there is incomplete metrics on near misses for both safety and food safety.

My, should have seen this coming, moment was with regard to product quality. Operating parameters verifications were routinely off spec but operations management believed it was just due to operational changes so disregarded the specs creating all sorts of problems. After years of working with a proactive management I couldn't truly believe that I was now working with a reactive management team. Even now that operations are back near the conditions they had been, operations management seems to believe that what happened was inevitable.

Is a safety incident also inevitable? Our operations manager is minimally involved with safety. He hasn't attended safety training since coming to our location. He skips safety events for employees in favour of production related tasks setting an example that encourages short cuts; kiboshes local safety initiatives that haven't been top down mandated; nods in tacit agreement with a safety violation and has a colleague doing damage control (oh he doesn't phrase things right) after he displays a stunningly negative safety attitude. Will he still be here when the fruits of his labours mature?

In a company with multiple locations, the only true way to measure the of each location is incidents. Upper management wants to believe that all is well; location management is ethical (or at least following the company ethics guideline) and that the workers are just jamming for more money or expensive upgrades that have no payback for the stock holder. Line supervisors are stuck in the middle, on the hook for incidents while being bypassed by management when determining operations.