A Few Thoughts on Responsibilities and Maybe Why

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Warehouse and Operations as a Career, and I guess  we’re on Episode 72 here today. I’m Marty, and I’m back home in Texas this week.  I’ve been traveling the last couple of weeks, been up north, in the snow for a while.  Each quarter I try and visit several facilities, I stop in on a couple of Production Facilities and several Distribution Centers and perform some observations and visit with Associates & Customers for business reviews.  I really enjoy the conversations, and the opportunity I have to learn from everyone. I was lucky enough to meet with several new comers to our industry and a few individuals just recently promoted to the Lead and Supervisor positions.  Through my visits I noticed a recurring thought, the word responsibility came up with almost everyone or position that was discussed.  We’ve spoken to the responsibilities of our jobs and our careers on several episodes.  I just found it interesting, and I was excited to hear all these new associates recognizing the points of their Jobs and planning as they were towards their careers!

One of the things I’m looking at when I enter a facility is the sanitation practices, what the transportation yard looks like, is the fence line clean or are there leaves and debris blown up into the fence, and are the Bollard post, I know a lot of us call them ballard post but anyway, are they nice and yellow or red or has the paint been knocked off or faded real bad.  Another thing I check out, are all the trailers or containers locked to the docks or are the wheels chocked.  Several facilities I’m involved with requires Glad hand locks or air line lock out devices thats applied to the red airline on the trailers.  We’ve had a few episodes where we’ve mentioned Audits and how every facility is subject to some kind regulatory concern each year, city, state or federal agencies may be stopping by, oh and probably a Fire Marshall or Building Inspector even.  As employees it’s all of our responsibility to follow the practices and procedures in place for our Safety and to adhere to those regulations of our industry.  If I find all those things look good I’d bet the facility will have all their paperwork in place with every employee being safety conscience.  I usually find a very strong Safety Culture within the shifts.  Now on the other hand, if all that isn’t 100% I know I’ll probably find a few deficiencies with the safety practices or procedures.  It’s kind of the same with the docks isn’t it, if the unloaders or lumpers keep their work area clean from pieces of broken pallets or torn shrink wrap you can pretty much bet the rest of the warehouse is going to be in top notch shape.  Many times an Auditor or inspector won’t even go on into the aisles, you know if it’s not a regulatory audit of course, but he or she can tell just that quickly what the sanitation and safety cultures are within the first 20 minutes of walking around.  I may even stop a couple of equipment operators and ask them to see their operator’s license and maybe ask them a couple of questions too, that’s a great way to meet them, shake their hands and let them know what a great job their doing.

Another place one can get an idea of how well a facility runs is checking out the breakroom.  Are their storage areas for lunches provided, plates and utensil’s or are things stacked in window sills and counters, that’s another indicator to an auditor of how the facility is ran.  I know as an employee these things seem a little trivial, especially when looked at individually but you can see how important they become as a whole in an auditors or agents world.

I had an associate bring up a concern about a write up he had received for his lunch being on his equipment.  He’d came in for his shift and since the equipment room was closer to the door than the breakroom he’d placed his lunch on his forklift, done his pre-trip and was driving his lift up to the breakroom.  We’ll the Supervisor had stopped him on the way and questioned him about having food in the warehouse and on his equipment.  We were in a food distribution facility, and according to their GMP’s or general maintenance practices there can be no food in the warehouse and come to find out he’d been cautioned at least on two other occasions for the very same thing.  I can see how to us as employees that doesn’t seem like a big deal BUT had the supervisor been an auditor or inspector they would have no problem pointing out that our GMP clearly stated that no food or lunches we’re to be outside the breakroom and points would have been immediately deducted from our score or possibly the company could have been fined.

I hear a lot about our safety vest and steel toe shoes too.  If we’re just walking across the floor and we’re not wearing our PPE’s, although we haven’t started working yet and we’re observed by an auditor it’s a big deal because our practices and processes are written and state that while in that area PPE’s will be worn.  A lot of those little rules, as simple as they seem to us are there and enforced for a reason, a much bigger picture if you will.  I witnessed an employee getting really upset with a Lead because she mentioned to him to put his vest on.  He felt it was not necessary, but it was, that’s how it’s written, and for a reason, and please don’t believe for a minute that a regulatory inspector wouldn’t enforce it and ding the company for it.

Another thing that’s a lot more important than it seems are egress doorways or emergency exits.  Every facility I know of has written that doorways are not to be blocked at any time.  I’m sure we’ve all seen someone place a pallet in front of a doorway for just a minute, maybe just be moving a row or grabbing something behind it and yep, that’s an infraction.  We’ve also probably seen that pallet being forgotten about and the doorway is left blocked.  I’m not sure why it happens or how it happens but I have facilities that have to mention it every week in their start up meetings.  Even if things are congested and cramped all doorways have to be clear, it’s written and it’s a rule, it’s a  regulation actually so there’s not really a leg to stand on in our defense.  We could easily loose our jobs by not following the rules, it’s just not worth getting upset about right?

Another one of those rules that’s hard to understand may be no gum chewing or hard candy allowed in the warehouse.  We could talk about how used gum sometimes ends up in the warehouse, on pallets or even product and candy may end up on the floor on occasion.  But there’s really not much to discuss, its written within our GMP’s that theirs no hard candy or gum chewing allowed in the warehouse so there’s no reason it should come up, yet, someone gets upset about it from time to time and may even receive some kind of corrective action for it.

So how do we as Associates, Leads or Supervisors handle rules, procedures or our company’s processes?  I think as an associate we just need to remember we’re at work, we’re being paid for our hard work.  That pay includes following all the regulatory concerns, processes and procedures right?  It’s hard, and we can say things like I just had my lunch on the forklift for like 5 minutes, or I was just crossing the aisle on my way to the lockers to put on my steel toes or I just hadn’t spit out my gum yet, I had just came in from the parking lot.  All that makes sense and yes, its innocent enough but in the regulatory world of our industry it’s just not permitted.  As a Lead or a Supervisor we have to protect the company by following and enforcing the regulations, procedures and processes.  I feel it’s important that as employees, leads or supervisors it’s all of our responsibility to create that Work Culture, Sanitation Culture and Strong Safety Culture within ourselves.  If we do that all those things won’t ever happen and we’ll never have to be concerned with penalties or fines from any regulatory agency!

Oh and another thing that came up on my visits, let’s talk for just a minute about the time clock.  So many Associates and Supervisors get frustrated weekly over the time keeping.  Us as associates want our pay correct each pay period.  It should be correct, it needs to be correct, we’ve worked very  hard for it.  Pretty much all time keeping systems are computer driven these days.  With a typical system we punch in at start of shift, punch out when we go to lunch, punch back in after lunch and then punch out when we finish up and are going home.  The computer tracks it, it gets turned in and we get paid correctly.  But what if we as Associates forget to make one of those punches, or we punched in earlier than we were suppose too, our time’s going to be messed up.  Our pay is going to be wrong and we may be upset about it.  Now of course our payroll department is going to correct it, we’re going to get paid for what we’ve done but it could be the following week as many companies can’t just cut another check or make another payroll run.  Believe it or not, and really understandably, sometimes an associate will get upset over a payroll opportunity. But because I forgot to punch or didn’t punch correctly it’s going to take someone else’s time to correct it, something that can be quite time consuming depending on the system, it might involve a couple of people to get it corrected.  As an Associate it’s our responsibility to punch correctly and should we make a mistake we need to let our management team know immediately so they can correct it asap.  I feel as Leads and Supervisors it’s our responsibility to help our associates learn to use the clock, make it convenient to use, follow up or check its information before the records goes in each week and coach our employees if errors occur. We all are working for money, I mean I hope we’re doing something we enjoy but we’re working for the money & I’ve always felt our pay should be a top priority.  It’s our responsibility as associates to keep our time correctly and as Leads and Sup’s we should follow up and make sure its correct every pay period.

Here at WAOC we’re always pointing out that it’s too our advantage to get noticed by our management team, in a positive way.  Helping build a strong Work Culture within our shifts, participating with the programs and teaching them to others are great ways to achieve just that.  I hope we all want to take on that next task, reach for that next promotion, and be hungry for that success.

I hope we brought up something that spurs a spark or created a thought for you today.  And if you have an experience you’d like to share send us an email to host@warehouseandoperationsasacareer.com and we’ll try and get it out in front of the group.  You can also use our Twitter and Facebook feeds using @whseandops on either platform and if you have a moment check out the Facebook group Warehouse Equipment Operators Community.  We’re having a lot of fun and communication with it as well.

We’ve talked about several of our responsibilities as Associates, Leads and Supervisors today but let’s not forget our biggest responsibility is keeping each other Safe in the work place and being Safe in our home life as well.  My Thanks to you all, hope you stop in again next week & let’s remember Safety is our First Responsibility!

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