Health and Safety Report – Orange Crush Zones March 2017
Orange Crush Zones
The first week in January, the GSC business team informed us in 3 short sentences that the following week they would be instructing ramp 3 drivers they must unload Intake trucks and drive backwards carrying two high from the ramp to the storage area some 400’ away. Further, that job instructions already state they can drive backwards on ramps carrying two high as long as the containers interlock, and if we have any issues we can sit down and discuss. Their argument is that because we have an Orange Crush policy that restricts pedestrian traffic it’s safe to force drivers to drive in reverse carrying loads stacked 2 high within an Orange Crush Zone. They argue that drivers have been observed driving in reverse on ramps and seem comfortable doing so. That they have been observed in violation of the Lift Truck Safety policy is conveniently forgotten, in part because that policy was changed to allow this practice without reviewing the change with the JHSC.
We were actually asked if we had any issues with this…and yes, we had a few. First off, these policy changes were made without reviewing through the Joint Health and Safety Committee, and though it is true we don’t have the power to approve or not approve changes to policy, we can have input and if there is something we don’t approve, you the membership will be informed of our reasons why. Secondly, the current Orange Crush Zone policy was not being followed nor enforced yet the GSC business team is relying on this policy to force a change to long held work practices in the Lift Truck Safety policy regarding driving in reverse.
So there has been a lot of good discussion on the topic of Orange Crush Zones. This policy as written is a good policy. The problem is the drivers on ramp 3 where these changes are being initially implemented, are surprised by pedestrians and vehicles entering the ramp every day without their knowledge, in violation of the OCZ policy. They call these surprise visitors “Gophers” because they pop up out of nowhere, and on ramp 3 the drivers began keeping track of surprise visitors on a “Gopher Board”. Maps for tracking OCZ issues have been put up in all GSC team rooms as suggested by the PIV Committee. Last week the “Gopher Board” was removed from ramp 3 by GSC management and later we’re told by them “We haven’t had a surprise visitor in 3 days”. The drivers are telling us something different. We’re also told by management “We haven’t had any incidents in the plant lately”, and for that we are grateful, but we’ve also been very lucky.
You don’t need to be surprised by a visitor to have a tragic incident. For Dave Walsh and John Avedesian it was just like any other Monday morning. Dave Walsh was a lift truck driver on Ramp 3 at Ontario Street Plant working with Stock chaser / receiver John Avedesian. Testimony from the Coroner’s Inquest states Dave had picked up two 5130 wire baskets of brake drums weighing almost 5000 lbs from a stack of three on the floor and was backing them out to separate them as John was speaking to him on his right. Dave replied to John, looked to his left and continued to back up. He started to lower the two baskets to the floor and noticed the load was suddenly shifting. He looked and noticed John had moved closer to him and he yelled for him to get out of there because the load was coming down towards him. The load toppled and John was underneath it. It all happened within seconds. John Avedesian had over 40 years of service at General Motors and was about to retire in 3 weeks when he died June 8, 1992 at 62 years of age. Dave Walsh was traumatized by causing the death of his co-worker and friend. There are people still working who remember them and that tragic day.
More recently, the first week in January this year a sentinel event occurred at Brownstown Battery Assembly Plant when a team member traveling east bound on a fork truck with no load on the plant’s south dock ran over another team member’s foot. The pedestrian was exiting a staging area where foam pallets were stacked 4 high, creating a blind spot for both the employee on the ground and the driver, as the injured team member was in the blind spot of the PIV mast. Perhaps Brownstown needs a “Gopher Board”.
The Jury at the Coroner’s Inquest for the Avedesian fatality recommended a tow motor driver should stop making a lift and sound the horn when they notice a worker walking too close to the vehicle, and should also tell the worker to leave the area before resuming the lift. That’s a great recommendation and was the beginning of the creation of restricted areas that evolved into Orange Crush Zones. But what happens when the driver is surprised by or dosen’t notice the pedestrian…refer to Brownstown above or worse, a fatality which is a sentinel event come true.
So how much has changed in 25 years? Policies come and go as do business team managers. Our workers and drivers have highlighted flaws in the OCZ policy, as have we. We have also offered suggestions for improvement to the policy but that’s where our involvement ends. We have the power to make recommendations but management has the right to manage.
We have asked that lines 5.9.6 and 5.9.7 from the previous 2012 Orange Crush Zone policy, be written back into the policy and enforced. This enables the lift truck operators to go “forks down” and drop their forks and/or loads to the ground and remain stationary if an individual enters the forks down area unannounced in a dock, ramp or storage area, surprising the driver.
We have asked that the current OCZ policy line 5.10.4 be amended to reflect improvements to the PTSP process. The current policy states a PTSP be completed in conjunction with GSC. Evidence has shown this rarely happens. We have asked that the PTSP process be amended to trigger a separate PTSP for entering an OCZ, similar to working at heights, which must be picked up from and filled out in conjunction with the GSC G/L for the ramp.
We have asked that a copy of the OCZ policy be provided as a part of the GSC PTSP and be signed off after reading by the requester.
We have asked for stricter enforcement of the following points of the OCZ policy; the drivers are adamant about pedestrian notification of intent prior to entering OCZ’s as mentioned in line 5.10.4. A method must be implemented that satisfies their concern of being surprised by “Gophers” on the ramps and storage areas. As well, line 5.10.5 which requires a second person acting as a spotter for individuals who must enter OCZ’s.
We have had minimal discussion since raising these issues and have heard a few scenarios being bantered about, so this is all currently in a state of flux. If you have concerns or ideas for improvement now is a good time for you to inject your input and have your say through your G/L or T/L, through the Employee Safety Concern Process, or contact us.
Edward Steers & Mike Pagano