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I Forge Iron

My rant on the safety industry


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Hey guys,

I might get flamed for this but thats ok, I need to air out my frustrations and perhaps you guys can help me work through my frustrations.

I'm an independant contractor so I work for about 4 major industrial companies. One of them is rather large and heavy on beaurocracy.

They are an oilfield service company engaging in pumping operations of fluid and chemicals into the ground. Their business motto however is "safeguarding people and the environment" even though their true objective is to stimulate oil wells to produce more oil....:rolleyes:

Anyway they have a clear and comprehensive safety programme with which they try to mitigate all risks involved in their operations. They supply everyone with plenty of literature and propaganda on safety and rules of conduct. Initially I was impressed at the level of investment they put into convincing use lowly grunts to actually value our lives and our bodies. In fact it prompted me to look more into safety myself and start designing my own safety procedures and guidelines for myself, to remind myself of some of the things I've learned that are dangerous or unsafe.
Thats when xxxx hit the fan.

After applying some of what I learned I began altering my behaviour and equipment to better protect myself. This turned out to be a no no.
Included in their safety programme are lists of rules to be followed. After noticing my new protective PPE. It was made clear to me that I was not allowed to deviate from their rules even if it ment I was better protected. I even had the safety dude admit that some of my behaviours and equipment went a step above their rules, however there was nothing he could do. 'Rules are rules'.

So now I'm left feeling betrayed and dissapointed. I started embracing a culture that they created to protect myself, but their own beaurocratical system prevents progress and infact impeeds it. So really is their safety programme about safety at all? Or is it just an elaborate propoganda scheme designed to protect their own legal liabilities?

Now that I have learned what I've learned and gotten used to my new found protection and self worth. I have refused to cave to their demands that I abide by their rules. I believe my time with them is coming to a close and it sucks not only because they are 75% of my livelyhood but that ultimatly there is still nothing a grunt like me can do to truely protect himself. Sure, I can refuse to do an unsafe job, but they will just find someone who will. And who am I to argue with the guy in an office tower 900km away about what safety procedure works best for me? How can a lowly grunt possibly have a better idea (or even a good, different idea) about how to proceed safely?

Those clearly are concepts that are best left to the professionals.

The beaurocrats.

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You hit the nail on the head... Its about liability and nothing more. I have done lots of work for Kone Cranes... Kone is the largest crane manufacture in the world.. They build the vast majority of ship to shore container cranes, big industrial gantry's (40 ton and up) and have a huge share of the bridge crane market... There single biggest concern is liability... This last fall we did a job for them where we replaced all of the bolts that secure the hoist house to carriage on the four 40 ton truck to train gantry's at the BNSF rail yard at the port of Seattle.... Not because there was anything wrong with the bolts... But because the bolts did not have the proper paper trail and documentation.. the "bolt kit" you get for a job is sealed in a plastic bag with a job number and a bar code for tracking...

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Purely and simply to cover their xxxxx. We have them send out 17 year old girls to do a safety audit on our company. 1 year out of high school. "And what is this thing?" "its a furnace" "what do you use that for?" "we use that to heat the steel that we forge", "Oh so how do you prevent your employees from burning themselves on it", "Well its hot' and every one knows not to touch it" "Is that covered in your training" "Well yes" "is that doucumented" "Of course" "oh well thats OK then" So long as you have a piece of paper with a sig on it thats all they care about.
What I reckon is that when computers came along they made a whole section of middle management redundant so jobs had to be found for them, so some one came up with an idea, We'll just invent a beauracracy in charge of OHS that can generate reams and reams of paper and will really achieve little in actual worker safety but it will look as if we are doing something and we will have something for all our friend displaced from middle management jobs and then they wont have to do dirty meanial work in the workshop with the troglodites.

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I agree with you all that it is not about the worker but about the company protecting itself. It always comes down to dollars and cents.

I spoke with our EH&S manager about this and he gave me these numbers:

Direct cost for 1 lost time incident claim averages $10,000.
Indirect costs are about 4 times the direct costs so that is about $40,000.

The total cost for 1 lost time incident is $50,000.

To put that into perspective, many commercial construction jobs make about 5% profit. That means you would have to do about $1,000,000 of work to pay for 1 lost time incident.

All these companies are run by bean counters and lawyers.

Edited by Sask Mark
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Freelance Fabber
Your story line has very well expressed a silent truth.
Very few people will stand up to refute standards of safety for fear of loosing their jobs, or what is called rocking the boat.

The concept of �acting like everything is alright� has been very well known as long as I have been involved with industry.
They will say (in print) one thing to protect them from legal consequences, but yet demand that you produce in a fashion that will not allow you to follow there phantom safety procedures.
As an investigator for over 36 years, I have seen the results of poor safety practices that were considered adequate but were not realistic in practice.

I could tell you stories that would make your hair stand up and cause you to feel inflamed about large corporation deceitfulness.
Here is just one type of an example:
As an Accident Reconstructionist, I was called out to a horrific traffic accident. It occurred on a road that leads into a major airport.
An airline pilot was late for a flight. He was booking it as fast as he could go to the airport.
Coming from the other direction was a truck that the government contracted to carry the mail.
They impacted square head on, on a curve. The car went halfway through the truck and both drivers were killed.
As the reconstruction developed, I found out something that gave me the chills.
The trucking company that was carrying the mail gave that driver only 90 minutes for delivery into another town located in another state.
The problem was if the driver drove at the posted speed limit of 55 mph, it would take at least an additional 10 + minutes to get there legally under ideal conditions than what the company strictly allowed.

The company has been disbanded now. But their motto was Haul a.. or haul logs
I ran into this type of double standard on regular basis for over 36 years as an investigator.

I believe the opinions of the contributors preceding this one has hit it on the head.

Like Glenn said �Corporate safety program is to protect the company. Personal safety is just that - YOUR - personal safety. There is a difference.

But it takes courage to stand up and do what you know to be the right thing to do for the future of your family and your self.
Your family does not need an injured husband/father, or a dead one. The pay is real bad after that!

I have, and I have had to pay a price for standing up to it!
Please take care of your self!
Ted Throckmorton

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Thanks for the support guys. It turns out they will 'allow' my new PPE setup after some negotiating and me giving a bit of a concession (I think they just had to feel like they were still the one giving the orders)
However I expect I will run into them on a similar issue again as there are a few 'safety procedures' of theirs that in my opinion should not apply to me or in a few cases I have a better more practical solution for.

My biggest beef is that these big companies (and even the govt) expect me to believe that their 'safety officer' sitting in his ivory tower office has more regard for MY safety and well being than I do. That he knows more about the reality of my daily work life than I do. That they have the power to dictate what risks I'm allowed to take and which I'm not.

The problem I have with the rules and guidelines enforced on us is that these rules are so broad and over simplified that you will be lucky if half of them actually provide any benifit. We all know that these rules are just something you follow to please the bosses. The real danger is that these same workers, forced to conform to these hairbrained rules (not all but many) have had their objectivity strippen from them so that when a real danger does arise, or if a new situation in which the above ruleset does not apply, these workers will have a harder time adapting their actions or initiating new procedures to protect themselves and others.

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Bottom line is it's all about the money, they will try and tell you otherwise but it's all just smoke and mirrors, they want to convince you that all their safety BS is for you and your family.... that's just their way of convincing employee's to get on board and get hardcore about their new policy's and standards.
If that is the case then why is it that every corperate safety lines I have ever heard explains all about how much a back injury costs the co., how much an eye injury costs, how much a trip to the ER cost and so on, and they figure in your loss of time and the loss of revenue due to you being out.
Then they go into how much their ins. co discounts them for each stricktly enforced safety policy and other various incentives from the ins. co.
As far as them allowing you to have your own standards that don't exactly match up with theirs, it's because they don't know whats safer and whats not but they do know that their rules are ok with their ins co. and they don't want to take any chances.
It's all just a really pathetic game and corp. America is bringing this country to it's knees.


Don't think that I'm saying that safety is not important, it is, it should be the #1 thing on your mind as you work but for you and the people around you NOT the corperate ins. co.

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Freelance, I had a run in with the boss today on a safety issue, he wanted something done his way, I said no. I told him that I had made a list of the body parts I could live without and it doesn't have any entries. I got the job done but it was done my way.


Yep thats my list.

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First Disclaimer, I am currently a full time EH&S Specialist.
Second disclaimer, I have worked with safety/environmental as my primary duty for 7 years.
Third disclaimer, I have worked in heavy industry since 1978, 3 years ARMY prior to that.

I have worked in companies that did the bare minimum to keep OSHA at bay. I have worked at companies that had real, active programs, aimed to reduce accidents.
I currently work at a manufacturing company that has :Safety First" as the company motto, and FOLLOWS THROUGH.

A couple of regulatory items. US OSHA requires that all PPE be maintaned in a clean and UN-MODIFIED condition. The PPE is to be worn as made and per the instructions provided by the maker. To allow modification by the wearer is to invite citation by OSHA.

Most PPE is designed and made and TESTED to meet specifications. An example is hard hats. They have to meet impact spec's and electrical insulation for those that are so rated. Turning the hat backwards on the suspension, can result in a citation unless a letter from the maker states that the hat was tested in that set up as well as the normal position.
Putting stickers on that hat? Do they provide a conductive path? Painting the hat? does the solvents in the paint reduce the strenght of the hat? If you have stickers or paint on the hat, how do you inspect for cracks?

An industrial safety program is ONLY as good as the efforts put in. I can testify that getting folks to wear their PPE, in the right manner is a daily frustration for every safety guy who cares. An earplug of the foam type requires a strict procedure to insert to gain the attenuation that is needed. How many of you reach overtop your head, pull the ear up, and insert the rolled foam earplug and then place a finger on top of the plug , then release the ear and hold the plug in place till expanded? if not, any other manner of inserting a foam plug will provide half or less of the rated protection.

Some of the safety guys you guys are running down, really care, some are burnt out from all the responsibility, no real authority, and folks on the floor who don't care about their own safety, and some of us have very flat foreheads from banging them against a wall of apathy, and indifference. And last are the safety guys, that got into safety, after first being First Aid guys, and who really hate spending 20 scarry minutes trying to extract a guy from a forklift mast, and then 3 hours with a steam cleaner, getting the blood and tissue that that same guy, a friend, left behind. I and the Union Shop safety steward did that First aid, and clean up, and I can testify that I was PTSD for months as was he. And I visualize that nightmare every time some guy says, But I have been doing this for years and never got hurt.

Please don't tar us all with the same brush.

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Yep thats my list.

Thank you for taking a great quote, and applying it to real life. It is refreshing to hear that a blacksmithing web site has you thinking about your personal safety in the smithy and beyond to the real world.
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  • 2 weeks later...

Dr Dean-

I'm think'en hair could go on the list but I could be wrong... Does not include scalp:o

Sometimes the boss needs to know who's boss....Glad it worked out

Ok you got me on that one but I'd rather it go away on it's own instead of being assisted by something other than my clippers!
Glenn I've pondered making a sign for my toolbox along the same lines.
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If someone says it`s a safety violation to wear a hardhat turned around then he`s obviously never worked around riggers,welders or worked aboard a ship.
Having that bill in front obscures your view overhead,something a rigger needs to see in order to safely do his job.Other`s lives depend upon his clear view of the load path.
Having that bill in the back helps keep sparks from getting under your collar and going down your back if you`re a welder.Keeping the bill in front also means the welder now must make a choice between wearing the hat or the helmet as the helmet doesn`t flip down with the bill in front.
Working onboard a ship with the overhead crammed full of things like valves,cable hangers,etc means you need to be fully aware of what`s above you.See rigger paragraph for further explanation.

I know the safety guys have a hard job and take some real flac for problems not of their own making.I also think you folks have to expect to fade a little heat from the guys on the deckplates.
The way we see it,we KNOW management doesn`t listen to us.We KNOW we have to listen to you.We just feel that when you KNOW a safety reg or procedure is pure BS because you see it for yourself when we point it out then management should have to listen to you just like we have to.
Believe me brother,you`re not the only frustrated pup in the litter.

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I have had two vastly different experiences with safety rules:

I worked in a corrugated box factory for 5 years. They had a rule that everyone on the floor wear ear plugs. The rule was in place before I started there. They had the ear plugs available at several stations (generally at entrances) and they provided molded plugs periodically. Everyone wore them and I never had a problem with the policy. Frankly, it was so loud in there that it would be dumb to spend 8 hours a day in there without them. You would wind up deaf - lots of the old timers were hard-of-hearing from before the policy was instituted.

I worked in an electronics factory where they decided to bring in a safety glasses policy. It was foisted on us - just as indicated in above posts - by an insurance company. It did not take the work being done into account at all. I was an incoming inspector. I worked in a room where no manufacturing processes were performed. The most dangerous tools I worked with were a caliper and an ohm meter.

My boss, enforced the rule selectively. I recall one day when he spent about a half-hour chatting up one of the design engineers who was not wearing glasses. Then, out of the blue, he turns to me and says "Biiillll" pointing to his glasses. I was POed. When I confronted him his response was he was responsible for me not the engineer - my answer was that if he felt the need to be responsible - he was responsible for his area. I sat and stewed until break time came. When I put down my glasses for break they shattered into 6 or eight pieces. He did not look happy. Needless to say, my next review was the only bad review I have ever gotten in 35 years working.

But the real kicker is that the manager in charge of maintenance was the chief enforcer of the safety glass policy. He put yellow dots on the floor in the aisles. The yellow dots represented areas where safety glasses were not required. Well, didn't the yellow dots go right to the door of the maintenance shop! Can you imagine, the test techs - who spent their day looking at oscilloscopes and tweaking pots (variable resistors) all day were required to wear safety glasses - but the maintenance people - with their lathes, grinders, saws and drill presses were not required to wear them in their area!

Stupidity breads contempt. Any safety policy that is based on stupidity is worse than no safety policy. Any policy that is not applied using common sense is stupid. My $.02. Sorry for the rant.

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Perhaps in my noting that wearing a hard hat backwards could be a safety hazard, citable by OSHA, I was not clear. The hard hats MUST be tested and certified to a standard. This includes drop testing of weights onto the hat. Some hard hat companies, knowing that some folks will NEED to wear the hat backwards, test them in both arrangements. Unless you have checked to see, how do you know? That is the reason for the OSHA folks citing, if your safety guy has not checked to see if the hat is TESTED SAFE in the arrangement you need. NOT BS, but prudent, reasonable requirement.
Would you want to get hit by a falling object, and have the hat that you have faithfully worn, fail to protect you because it is not able to do so in the arrangement you have it in?

Usually when folks start marking places that do or do not need safety glasses or hearing protection, there will be issues as noted. The item that will hurt your eye does not know the floor is marked, The sound travels and does not know you are on break in the aisle.

Another issue to consider, is that no matter how reasonable the requirement, there is always at least one person in the shop who will try every way to not comply. To deal with these folks, many companies make "Universal" type rules, like "Every single person inside the shop walls will wear..." This is because then there is no ambiguity, no quibbling, no if, ands or buts, the person was not in compliance. That one jerk will make it hard for management to be reasonable in many cases. Been there, done that.

Couple of quickies... Want to know when the sound level is high enough to need protection so that when you are the old timer you won't be hard of hearing? If you need to raise you voice at normal conversational distance to be heard, need to turn your head to hear, it is too loud.

Ptree's safety glasses test " Close both eyes. Tell me what you see. Any questions?"

Last but not least, the OSHA folks are not really very smart at writing regulations. They did not create the reg's from their great intellect, but rather they use records of injuries to see what is hurting people. So one could argue that EVERY SINGLE REGULATION IS WRITTEN IN BLOOD.

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Oh, and for the record, I worked in a 42 acre campus of shops that had several million feet under roof of boiler shops, huge drop forges and about 450 major machine tools. We consistantly moved 275,000# boiler modules,overhead DAILY. we moved 82,000# machine on all 7 stories of a 7 story machine shop, and we had to rig them to raise them up the outside and winch them in a door. I only spent 21 years working for that company before I moved to a upsetter foge shop, where it took a 10 ton crane to do maintenance on the equipment, and I installed machinery that the frame only weighed 575,000#, and we moved it over the pit and lowered.
I have spent over 30 years in industry, always around heavy welding, large forging, riggers, electricians and so forth. In fact I am a rigger, but perhaps a little different than your definition. I am a parachute rigger, certified by the FAA, and the military. I could rig a armoured vehicle to be air dropped. Get that rigging wrong and oh boy.

Perhaps I am a little touchy when folks who do not know me allege that I am some no nothing, that reads a regulation and mindlessly applies it. I have worn the steel toes, been in the cold, done inside boiler and inside above ground storage tank entries and work. I have worked with asbestos. I have worked with lead abatement. I have worked in plants that had clorine, hydrogen sulfide, hydrogen cyanide etc, doing valve service. I have worked with high pressure, up to 33,000 psi all of the previous personally. I have rigged loads to be lifted, and lowered. I also have done the clean-ups after some really bad accidents. And those clean-ups are why I am pretty passionate about safety.

Rant over.

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