Health and Safety Report, October 2017
During our daily routine, through calls, questions and chats with members we are finding examples of people frustrated with the Employee Safety Concern Process. Questions we’re asked, like; “What can we do when we become frustrated by the ESCP? Why does there have to be an incident, or why do people have to be injured before a concern gets addressed? Do we have to lose our minds at a Start of Shift meeting, when asked if we have safety concerns to make our voices heard? How do we deal with our Group Leaders perceived indifference when they seem to be doing only the minimum to address a concern? What do we do when our concern reappears? How can we find out the status of our concern? Why did they just close off my concern?”
When concerns aren’t addressed or the process fails for whatever reason, this can be extremely frustrating to a person who is concerned about anything that may affect their own or their co-worker’s health and safety. The “reason to believe” is the basis of the concern process, enshrined in law as per OHSAct Sec. 43. (3). This is important because many people believe in many different things, such as religion or politics. If we believe we are endangered, or if we are aware of the existence of what we believe to be a hazard, this concern must be investigated and our employer must take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker. Due diligence is defined as “the care that a reasonable person exercises to avoid harm to other persons or their property.” The need for an effective ESCP was agreed to in the Master Agreement Doc. 74 IX. (d), that practical solutions to health and safety concerns are best achieved by responding to such concerns in a prompt and co-operative manner to prevent concerns from becoming work refusals. So one question we have is, with all these systems in place how is it possible that puddles on the floor have become invisible?
Puddles on the floor are the nature of a machining plant because machines leak… and for a variety of reasons. There have been three recent incidents that highlight this issue. In the HFV6 Head Hydromation System basement there was a slip and fall. This area is out of sight and out of mind, chronically the worst area in the plant. Workers and H&S Reps for years have complained about the hazardous working conditions in this area. After Agile Block went down March 1 it’s gotten even worse, since this area was shared by HFV6 Head and Agile paid for KFM to maintain the area. During a recent break-down a worker was using a hand truck to move a bin full of chips that wouldn’t move on the oily floor. With both hands on the steering arm and the controls in reverse, he leaned back and pulled to try to get it to move, when his feet slipped and he landed flat on his back. The next day this worker lost his mind at his SOS meeting when asked if he had any safety concerns.
We had a call to GF6 Gears where a worker had concerns about the chronically oily floor around the broaches. The area adjacent to the worker was like an ice rink, with oily boot prints tracked in every direction and a sheen of oil on the floor that remained even after KFM had mopped the area. The worker was threatening to refuse because he was tired of bringing the issue to his G/Ls and day after day nothing changed.
In Gen V Block machining a worker slipped and fell on an oily puddle around a machine. The summary report written by the G/L states, “Oil on the floor had leaked out of the machine. The leak on the floor had not been reported so there was no awareness of it, it had not been cleaned up, and the machine had not been scheduled for repair to prevent the condition. If the leak had been reported out and the floor cleaned up when the leak was seen, the employee would have been aware of the concern and the machine would be scheduled for repair, and the incident would not have happened.” As written this is what the company believes is supposed to happen. Clearly the onus is on us to report a puddle; and so we do, and KFM is called to clean it up. For years as often happens, the puddle is back the next day, so we go through this pg.2 exercise again, and again, and again until it becomes “Groundhog Day”. We relive the same day over and over until frustration takes over and we say “F@#% it” – and we step over the puddle. Just like that, the safety culture shifts and it becomes acceptable to step over the puddle; to us because we are no longer frustrated by the process and to the G/L because they don’t have to deal with an issue they don’t know about.
What’s interesting is one manager’s comment that the workers should have refused to work. Technically that’s correct but for a worker who just wants to do their job, refusing to work puts them in the unenviable position of being at odds with their G/L and fear takes over, of being a target for subtle reprisals like not being allowed time off, or any number of ways we can be dicked around. There are good G/Ls and A/Ls we work for who will take concerns seriously, but they may be hampered by limited resources. This adds to our frustration and puts pressure on the workers themselves to just accept it and do the job anyway – “I’ll just be careful.”
The list of excuses we often hear why leaks are not addressed is extensive, but mainly that production must run, so quite often maintenance can’t get a look at a machine even when it is scheduled for repair, and when they do, often the cause is a dam of chips hidden inside the machine due to poor chip management or design.
The MOL was called on this issue 4 years ago, and though not an extensive review of the workplace the Inspector did observe a puddle of coolant that presented a hazard to workers in the area and issued an order that the floor shall be kept free of hazards pursuant to Sec. 11(a) of the Regulations for Industrial Establishments which states: “A floor or other surface used by any worker shall be kept free of, (i) obstructions, (ii) hazards and, (iii) accumulations of refuse, snow and ice”. This order was complied with before the Inspector left, meaning it was either mopped up or the area was flagged off to keep workers out.
This issue has been raised by us in the last two PSRB meetings and is an open item on our JHSC minutes. We have made it quite clear to the company that we will not accept our members experiencing injuries and incidents before their concerns are addressed, and continuously mopping up puddles is not a long term solution. We’ve discussed the use of caution tape, A-tags, Safety W/Os, and dedicated KFM resources, and these discussions continue. For the time being, in order to maximize accountability and minimize delays in addressing leaks, it seems the best solution for us is to urge you to continue to follow the ESCP, by reporting leaks to your G/L and or T/L, by not accepting KFM cleanup as the only solution to a puddle that reappears, and by having your T/L document leaks on your Level 5 board. This starts the clock for escalation, in 7 days it goes to the A/L and in 30 day it goes to PSRB, where the Plant manager expects to hear a plan to address it. One BTM mentioned the ESCP is currently under review and recommendations will be shared with the JHSC.
To their credit, the A/Ls for Gen V Machining and Maintenance have taken steps to improve the ESCP in their area, and T/Ls are tracking leaks on the Level 5 board. Machines are scheduled down and maintenance and engineering are investigating and repairing problem machines. This action has uncovered an unknown problem with auger seals that are leaking, resulting in parts being ordered and repairs being scheduled. The Head Hydromation basement area has seen improvements that will hopefully be sustained, one noted being KFM audit sheets signed by G/L twice a week for the basement and the use of zorball on floor which is now remarkably dry. In GF6 Gears, thinly stretched KFM resources split between Prismatics and Gears are trying to keep up with the leaks, and non-slip paint has been applied to some of the more problem areas. The closure of Employee Safety Concerns starts and ends with the originating individual or team, if not call us to follow up.