Safety and Professional Etiquette, military to civilian
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  1. #1
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    Default Safety and Professional Etiquette, military to civilian

    I have some questions about workplace safety etiquette. It's a somewhat complex situation, so please bear with. Grab a hot beverage, maybe a snack- it's not short.

    I am working as a machinist/tech assistant in a research and development shop while I get my degree in industrial engineering. The facility I work at is basically R&D lab rental, with several client corporations taking advantage of the expensive and difficult to develop/maintain facilities. Part of my job is to maintain and operate the machine shop, and to train the clients on the equipment relevant to their experiments.

    This is my first job as a civilian that is actually in my chosen career field. I came from the nuclear Navy and I get that my safety and compliance standards are probably so far north of anal-retentive that it borders on mental illness. I try to not be 'that guy' about enforcing safety and policy, but it often feels like I am a voice in the wilderness when trying to keep people up on basic lab and shop safety compliance. I feel that the conflict resolution tactics I learned in the Navy may not be appreciated at a civilian company. The only things I feel I can do are say "hey, don't do that thing", which has been ineffective, or kick things up to the director of client relations, which feels like running to my boss because I can't manage client relations effectively myself.

    My questions for the community, those of you who have perhaps gone from military to civilian industries or those who have long experience in civilian industrial safety, are thus:
    -Is it normal for different companies using the same facility to follow radically different safety procedures?

    -In the Navy, there was constant reinforcement of the idea that every single individual is responsible for maintaining safe behavior among themselves and their colleagues. In the civilian world, it seems like there is a 'safety guy' and the point is not comply with safety regulations but not get caught by the 'safety guy', thereby generating unproductive meetings and paperwork.

    -Early in my military career, it was impressed upon me that regulations see no rank (in theory, at least). Some of the civilians I work with believe "he can do that, he's the CEO/department head/etc and the rules are different for him" get you out of pretty much any rule. Is this normal for civilian industrial spaces?

    -I am a student worker dealing with executives and PhDs, and frequently they push back on production time vs safety and compliance. Is it normal for people in these kinds of positions to have executive authority over those kinds of decisions? For example, in the shipyard there was the joint testing council, and getting anything significant changed required a lot checking and concurrence between leaders and engineers. Here, the production schedules change with much less consideration.

    I understand that every organization needs to strike a balance between obsessing over safety and compliance, and actually getting anything done. I know that my new workplace may put that balance point at a much less restrictive place than the nuclear Navy. If the norms are different, then, well, I'll have to learn how to live with that. I appreciate any advice anyone is able to give.

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    A tough situation. Have you talked with your supervisor, and if so what did he/she say? You've presented a pretty good overview in your post, can you email it (after minor editing) to the Sup and see how they regard it?

    At the least, you want to make clear you tried, prior to someone losing a finger...

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    Have your direct management supply you with a copy of their safety compliance, offer warnings and guidance to the offenders. If they chose to follow, have them sign with 'I choose to ignore' statement or risk a machine lock out. Your management would be liable if you failed to push the liability in writing onto the perpetrator.

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    It might help to know what types of safety violations you are seeing.

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    First and foremost, thank you for your service.

    Safety is certainly a tough subject when it comes to safety vs efficiency. I've seen situations where safety helps, hinders, or doesn't impact efficiency.

    My best advice I can offer is to experiment with How you go about bringing up the safety items. You mentioned..

    " The only things I feel I can do are say "hey, don't do that thing", which has been ineffective, or kick things up to the director of client relations, which feels like running to my boss because I can't manage client relations effectively myself."

    In my experience people I've worked with respond fairly well to "Hey, I'm worried about you doing that thing because I've seen (Or I could see) This bad thing happening to you as a result. Would it work if we do it this way instead?"

    Essentially I feel it gives them a reason that they can understand and gets them thinking about the situation instead of being defensive.


    Ultimately it sounds like you are up against culture inertia. Where people in the company aren't used to following things as stringent. As they say, "A company out of compliance will stay out of compliance unless acted upon by an outside motivation." (Maybe no one says that, but it certain sums up how some groups I've been in are.)

    Good Luck!

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    I am also interested in the level and nature of the unsafe behavior. There is (for sure) a difference in perceptions of safe practices among users when comparing a military nuclear energy environment to a part-time shop rental space being used by a number of different organizations, especially if they have commercial interests somewhat dependent on that usage. You seem to recognize that.
    I think if the violations are egregious and done unrepentantly, getting some sort of release in writing is a good idea, as noted above. Another approach might be to have an official safety class as initial introduction to shop usage, and perhaps some viewing of YouTube videos of people having their fingers ripped off or arms broken might present a useful point of view. Posting some news articles about accidents resulting from poor safety practices, such as the woman who was killed at Yale in 2011 after getting her hair caught in a lathe, might also reinforce the message.
    Tough spot to be in the middle, do something to protect yourself. You might also check into what the actual insurance coverages are for commercial clients working in a joint facility, particularly if none of them have any ownership of the facility.

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    I wish to offer a guide as a former af / sf tech and a ceo.

    First document your desires, on safety.
    I want to see "aa.bb.cc in xx way".

    Show it to your supervisor, and ask them to initial go/no.
    If they dont initial it, ask for why ?
    Ask if they are happy to take responsibility for future problems.

    When You have a signed-off sheet, go to the people.

    If you do not get a signed off sheet go to the owner.
    Right to the top.
    They actually really *want to* hear about problems like this, and *vastly more* before workers rights/legal is involved.
    The owner wants the problem to go away and will be happy to put you in as the new manager with higher salary.

    The workers grumble but see better safety as useful.

    You *must* document (some of ) the errors via docs or video.
    Otherwise you will be accused of being a pirate.

    Don´t try half-way fair solutions.
    You will get screwed.

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    Art.h nailed it. You need to have a signed written statement from your management stating that where safety is involved you have the authority of prevent anyone from using a machine unsafely. Make a couple of copies and post them throughout the facility. If someone questions your authority, just point out one of the notices.

    Remember in the military, if your were tasked with guarding an area with a firearm, it didn't make any difference if the offender was a sergeant or a general, you have the authority and responsibility to use the weapon.

    Tom

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    Since this is a R & D shop I think some of the R part is learning how will they make the part safely once it is in a full production shop. They need to not only make a part that works they need to make sure it can be produced in quantity at a reasonable cost.
    Part of that cost is insurance for the workers and OSHA fines. Thinking about safety practices should be part of the research. Just like deciding on critical and non critical tolerances can reduce production costs without reducing the parts usefulness.
    Bill D

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    The big company I used to work for in the civilian nuclear power sector was big on safety. (The smart kind of workplace safety, and also dumb kind that's laughable) They were big on "coaching". Of all the ways to correct a behavior without causing a bunch of ego issues, coaching was a good method. I'm sure YouTube has a good video. No one likes to be corrected.

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    Sounds like more of rant than a question... but anyway

    There are two kinds of safety: (1) crazy, time-wasting shit that OSHA makes you do, and (2) actual practices that are useful to do for safety reasons.

    It's not your job to be nanny to the world, and it is especially not your job to be snooping on your fellow employees and making judgements on machinists with more experience than you. When it comes to safety or anything else, mind your own business and establish your own practices. If somebody tries to coerce you into doing something unsafe, refuse to do it. It's pretty much that simple.

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    Your last employer didn't have to worry about making money or having competitors, so didn't care how much time got wasted in safety meetings required to justify somebody's job and to ease the worries of a bunch of mama's boys that their next paper cut will be taken care of with the utmost of concern.

    Meanwhile, your current employer has to actually earn their money, and is not guaranteed by the federal government to be in business tomorrow.

    Apply some common sense to your surroundings and fucking get to work already.

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    What people do in their own shop after gaining their R&D time in your shop is up to them but while they are in your shop they operate under your shop rules or FO. This is not unusual, consider the safety rules people comply with when they simply drive a car or rent a watercraft. Get a copy of the rules you are expected to enforce from your management and apply them rigidly.

    Once your management understands the value to them of reasonable safety practices they will back you since the alternative could cost them lots of money.

    .

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    What kind of safety issues are you talking about? Truly potentially lethal, or forgot to do lock-out-tag-out when mopping the floor?

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    Thank you, everyone, for taking the time to respond. There's some excellent advice in here and I appreciate all this new data. I will try to address questions and respond to what's relevant.

    Here's a short list of suggestions that were rebuffed. All of these interactions were in person and quite professional, but did not end with any correction to their behavior. Not all of them were safety related but were counter to specific policy. All of them either occurred in the machine shop, which I am responsible for, or in the experimental tooling and equipment areas, which I am not directly responsible for but which are managed by the landlord organization.
    -Comply with the production request guidelines and shop training policy
    -Wear PPE
    -Do not pass through construction zones without wearing PPE, attending the safety brief, or having permission
    -Do not use equipment you are not trained to use
    -Comply with posted safety warnings and instructions, regardless of which organization has posted them
    -Schedule and log equipment use at the appropriate terminal or website
    -Do not remove signs, tags, or warnings from equipment

    I wrote an email to the director asking for policy guidance and clarification of my role in safety regulations and what my responsibilities and liabilities are as the machine shop manager. I'm also going to ask him to sign a short policy reminder, as many of you suggested. Unfortunately I am the machine shop supervisor, so the next person IS the director.

    I want to give a special mention to Praxis and Art.h. I believe that cultural inertia may be exactly what's going on. All of these client companies are startups, so they have no history of corporate safety. They are transitioning from basement/garage/whiteboard/lab operations to OshKosh My First Manufacturing System and their lack of safety awareness is part of their growing pains. I bet nobody on their staff has ever even witnessed a preventable fatal accident. Furthermore, documentations and close air support from management are going to be the solution; I'm not going to be able to correct these people on my own as a student worker when they have shown no interest in working with me on this.

    For what it's worth, there has been zero personal drama over this. Everyone has been completely professional; just non-compliant. Obviously I would prefer to be correct but if it comes out that I'm the weirdo with the hard-on for safety policy, I'll deal with that on my own.

    Thanks again for all your input, folks. I've been thinking about this a lot this weekend, and your advice has helped me muddle through it. It's worth mentioning that aside from this, which takes up almost none of my time at work, my job is literally my dream and everything there is incredible. Thanks for your help ironing out this fractious little corner!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Syzygy View Post
    -Comply with the production request guidelines and shop training policy
    -Wear PPE
    -Do not pass through construction zones without wearing PPE, attending the safety brief, or having permission
    -Do not use equipment you are not trained to use
    -Comply with posted safety warnings and instructions, regardless of which organization has posted them
    -Schedule and log equipment use at the appropriate terminal or website
    -Do not remove signs, tags, or warnings from equipment
    These mostly seem to be very minor in the scheme of things.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob F. View Post
    These mostly seem to be very minor in the scheme of things.
    That's a matter of opinion - they all seem perfectly reasonable to me.

    Of course I've had the joy of dealing with idiots who came out on a trawl deck while we were recovering a net on the end of 1000m of wire, which was spooling in quite fast onto the drums. They wanted pictures, you see.

    So tell me more about how minor passing through construction (heavy work) zones are from a safety POV.

    Ditto on PPE - it's all unnecessary until someone loses an eye.

    PDW

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    Quote Originally Posted by PDW View Post
    That's a matter of opinion - they all seem perfectly reasonable to me.
    I thought he meant they're minor as in low cost and easy to implement so who wouldn't support doing so?

    OP, I don't fully get your situation, something about clients on machine tools? That imo is dysfunctional unless there is first training for the machine and a zero tolerance policy of follow the rules explicitly and your word is law, or you're out.

    As for liability? How about jail? If you are in charge, safety procedures aren't followed and someone dies, you could be pooched. No matter how much stupid boss says don't worry about it.

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    Haha I worked in a place for a number of years where if you asked about health and safety you basically got a "Whats that?" response. It was a great place though and accidents were kept to a minimum.

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    The world is changing. In Europe, upper management is "theoretically" libel for jail time for some safety issues.
    We have customers who threaten to ban us from their site for our (not that bad) safety statistics.
    In theory, we're required to leave a job site that is unsafe (third world xxxx hole). Not aware this has been tested?
    In addition to 8 hours of MSHA safety refresher training each year, my employer inflicts about another 8 hours of safety training on me.
    Our safety culture emphasizes safety at home as well as at work. PITA, maybe, but I appreciate being treated as an asset, and this has influence my actions at home.

    There are businesses that take safety seriously, and if you can't change the culture where you're at, maybe you should move on.
    Sounds like your R&D facility doesn't understand the risk$. If the risks are tolerable in the OSHA world, stay out of mining. MSHA has no mercy.


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