Let it go!" I screamed across the shop at my sawyer who stood frozen, grasping the end of the slab that stood frozen in time for the split second before it tilted like the Titanic and slammed into the floor in front of the saw.
Had someone been standing in or walking through the shadow of that slab when the old blue scissor-clamp failed, they might have been killed. Had my sawyer tried to save the slab, he might have been killed or seriously injured. For those who have never had a close call while handling slabs, it's easy to be lulled into a state of complacency about slab handling procedures and protocols. The crush of other responsibilities and the recession that has left many of us short-handed, further pushes the reality of just how dangerous our business can be to the recesses of our minds.
The falling slab incident in my shop happened at least six years ago, and until recently I had rarely given it a second thought. But for a reason I can't explain, the bumps, bangs, and booms from the everyday shop operations emanating through the walls into my office began to unnerve me.
A couple of times, the loud crash of the garbage truck emptying the dumpster sent me flying out of my chair, racing through the office and out into the shop expecting to find the worst. The steel layout tables banging upright with a 3cm slab would so startle me, it would take five minutes for my heart to stop racing and I would have to take deep breathes to calm down so I could concentrate on my work.
My anxiety grew. In fact, I think I was beginning to have minor panic attacks when I would start dwelling on the what if's of a slab crushing one of my employees. What if the clamp fails? What if the slab has a fissure below the clamp? What about a momentary distraction or lapse in judgment? What about a shortcut in the interest of getting the job done on time?
The fact that we are "OSHA Compliant" did nothing to answer these questions in a practical sense, much less alleviate my fraying nerves.
The many slab handling, forklift driving, trailer unloading procedures we've written over the years would bring momentary relief, but deep down I knew that nobody ever read them or referred to them.
It began to dawn on me that what we needed was a constant reminder, a daily review, of the potentially life-saving protocols instead of a never-referred-to document in an ops manual.
So, I took my own advice (often a very difficult task) and wrote out a formal "Order of Operations" for the job of conducting a tenminute daily safety review. In reality, I applied the PROcessTM I wrote about in my book Less Chaos More Cash. First, I assigned the critical task of conducting a daily safety review to my production manager. Next, I defined the result I wanted which was a daily review with all shop staff of our slab handling protocols. Lastly, I designed an updated document with pictures and captions that all shop staff would not only have in their ops manuals, but would be required to refer to during the daily safety review.
It's funny, my shop staff now jokingly roll their eyes when I ask about the daily safety review and they groan about how they can all recite it from memory. But joking aside, they all begrudgingly acknowledge that our shop is safer - and their families are better off for it.
To be distracted by other concerns is to put the life of my men in danger. To be unconscious of this reality is to be negligent. To be without a practical tool that improves shop safety disciplines is simply unacceptable.
To that end: I encourage, plead, and beg you to put a daily safety review into practice in your shop.
And if the crush of other responsibilities makes this impracticable, email me and I will gladly send you ours.
Take care and Stay Safe!
Aaron J Crowley is the author of Less Chaos More Cash. You can reach him by email at Aaron@CrowleysGranite.com