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Maybe They Should’ve Let Him Drop The Box On His Head

, , , , , , , , , , , | Working | November 29, 2023

We recently had a new employee assigned to the area I manage. I walked him through the training. He was somewhat unfocused, often needing an instruction or demonstration to be repeated two or three times before he got it, but once he paid attention, he picked up the various tasks quickly enough, and he completed them well. After a few days of training, he seemed set to work on his own, so I left him to it.

Later that day, I was walking through the factory floor and turned down an aisle in time to see [New Employee] standing on his tiptoes, slowly inching a box filled with very heavy parts off of one of the shelves. This was very much not how I had shown him how to pull boxes down, and even as I started forward, I saw the box start to tip.

I managed to reach him in time to shove him out of the way so that the box slammed into my shoulder rather than smashing straight into his head. I got knocked to my knee, shouting as the box almost dislocated my shoulder, and the box ended up wedged between me and the shelf. I managed to twist enough to get it off my shoulder and down onto the floor. By the time I turned back, [New Employee] was literally running off, apparently crying as he went.

A couple of others ran over, and I assigned them to check out the box for broken parts while I struggled to my feet to head to the on-site safety station. I got my shoulder checked out, and they ended up putting a brace on it.

That is when someone from Human Resources showed up. Apparently, [New Employee] had run straight there to scream about me “attacking” him.

I was pissed, and I ended up tearing into both [New Employee] and the HR representative, who had tried to say that they were going to suspend me for “unacceptable behavior”. I laid out what I’d seen and how we had possibly been seconds away from HR having to fill out details on how an employee had died on-site from dropping a box of heavy metal on his own head.

The fallout from all of this was… [New Employee] walked away with no issue, and I was reassigned to undergo sensitivity training because [New Employee] claimed a learning disability and said I hadn’t trained him properly.

So, I did the course, and I walked [New Employee] through all of the training again, this time dragging along someone from HR to verify and sign off on everything because my word was no longer good enough. Everything was signed off after a week of training, but this time, rather than having [New Employee] work on his own, I assigned him a partner to work with.

Over the course of the next two weeks, [New Employee] ended up with almost a dozen safety complaints against him. On two separate occasions, he tried to pull the same “go on tiptoe and slide a box off the shelf” stunt. He extended a box cutter fully and then waved it around like a sword, almost cutting his partner. He tried to climb into one of the forklifts and drive it, despite having zero training on operating it.

And with every complaint, HR told me that I couldn’t do anything — I couldn’t discipline him in any way — and they threatened me with another sensitivity course for “singling [New Employee] out”.

So, I went over their heads to the local safety inspectors. Within a day of doing that, I had a meeting with HR, a safety rep, and some of the C-suite (executives) for our company. I laid out all of the issues, provided the signed-by-HR training documents, and then laid out my ultimatum: either [New Employee] would be fired, or he would be assigned to the HR office (or somewhere else in the company). I flat-out refused to have him out on the factory floor.

HR made an anemic attempt to bring up “non-discrimination”, and I told them that the only way I’d be discriminating against anyone is if I kept him on; if literally anyone else had the safety record [New Employee] had, they would have been fired straight away.

From what I heard, he was moved to HR for all of three days, and then he was let go for some “undisclosed incidents”.

Getting Screwed In The Hardware Sector

, , , , , | Right | November 23, 2023

A client was referred to me to have her hardware product repackaged. Somebody was assembling these things in his garage, and frankly, they didn’t look very professionally made. 

Me: “Okay, I’ll quote 100 hours at [rate] to redo this from the ground up. It’ll be in a more attractive, more durable case, and most importantly, you’ll be able to get it manufactured in bulk quantities instead of the way you’re doing it now.”

Client: “That sounds fine, but I can’t afford your quote.”

Me: “I understand. It’s tough to scale up a small business. So, I’ll tell you what: if you let me build the first 500 units, I’ll build an extra margin into the manufacturing quote to recover my design and engineering expenses. You won’t be out any money upfront, and I’ll recover my fee as your customers pay you.”

Client: “Okay, sounds great!”

Six months or so later, I’ve built about 100 units and momentum is building. I’m hopeful that [Client] might be able to sell the additional 400 I need to break even within the next six months.

Client: “We’ve looked at the numbers, and we’ve decided that your price is too high for these. We can get them made by [Designer] for [just about exactly my fee margin less].”

Me: “Yes, our agreement was that they would be more expensive so that I could recover my design fee.”

Client: “Yeah, but we can get them made cheaper since you did the redesign. So that’s what we’re going to do.”

We’ve Had Enough Of These Shift-y Characters!

, , , , , , , | Working | October 16, 2023

About a year into my last job with a military contractor, they put this guy in the night shift supervisor position, and it was almost immediately apparent that this guy couldn’t lead rats off a sinking ship. He would agree that the upper management were unreasonable a**holes — in private. But as soon as they were in front of him — usually wailing about some imaginary problem that they literally invented because they had nothing better to do — he would alternate between just sitting there saying nothing while we got berated and written up for fabricated reasons or being down on the floor doing everything short of kissing their a**es.

[Night Shift Supervisor] was also terrified of addressing any kind of issue between employees, so he always went down the “just figure it out” road. He was completely useless about it; he would claim to go address the problem and then do absolutely nothing. The few times that he did something, all it took was even slightly raising your voice to him and he would run away with his tail between his legs like a whipped dog.

The final straw came for me when [Night Shift Supervisor] approached me with the first shift supervisor. If we messed up something on our shift, we were expected to fix it. If the first shift messed something up… we were also expected to fix it because, for whatever reason, the day shift was never held responsible for anything at all. So, they approached me with a rocket tube; the first shift idiot who did my job had royally messed up the positioning of the lot number and ammunition number that got printed on every rocket body. They expected me to fix it because of course they did.

I was logging myself into the new production lot at that moment, which I think they waited for so they could sneak up on me with this nonsense. So, I listened, and then:

Me: *To [First Shift Supervisor]* “Day shift should fix their own screw-ups; we always get their mistakes to fix on top of doing our own jobs at night.”

This guy had the absolutely brass stones to tell me:

First Shift Supervisor: “You’re making that up! Your shift is never expected to clean up after day shift; that’s never the case! If you don’t agree with that, then maybe you’re in the wrong place.”

And right then, I noticed that [Night Shift Supervisor] was just… standing there listening to this fool tell me that something I had watched happen for almost five and a half years never happened. And he said nothing in my defense — not a g**d*** word.

I decided that the day shift fool was right; I was in the wrong place. So, I unclipped my badge — before I turned around so they couldn’t see it coming until it was too late — and then spun around, clipped it onto HIS shirt, and said:

Me: “Yeah, you’re right. I’m going to go find the right place.”

And I walked away. They were both literally stuttering as I left.

About To Have A Different Kind Of Blow-up Than Usual

, , , , , | Working | October 2, 2023

I work as a service engineer for laser cutting machines. (I previously submitted this story.) We got a call from one of our clients who owned a very old machine, saying that one of the hydraulic motors of the machine had stopped working and they needed our help.

When I arrived, I learned that the full story was that the motor started leaking, and the team operating the machine tried disassembling it to find the cause, couldn’t, and then reassembled it incorrectly. It took me a while to figure out how to assemble it correctly (as no schematics were available for years) and to find the leaking gasket that needed replacement. This gasket was something they could manufacture and install on their own once they got a sheet of the proper rubber — which they didn’t have at that moment so it could not be done on the spot — since it didn’t actually require the full disassembly they unsuccessfully tried earlier.

I then went to the production manager to inform him of my findings. As I was on my way out of his office, I overheard him calling the manufacturing team about an incoming work order for the laser cutter. I turned back in.

Me: “I’m sorry, but are you planning to continue using the machine before that gasket is replaced?”

Manager: “Of course.”

Me: “You can’t.”

Manager: “What?! Why?! I thought you said you repaired the motor, other than the leak!”

Me: “I did, but it’s still leaking. You can’t work like that.”

Manager: “What do you mean? We worked with that leak for weeks before we tried to sort it out, just topping off the hydraulic fluid once in a while! And nothing happened; as you can see, the motor runs fine!”

Me: “You… worked like that for weeks?”

Manager: “Sure. Without issue.”

Me: “Without issue with the motor maybe, but have you noticed the puddle underneath the machine?”

Manager: “So what? The guys just mop it up now and then. It’s not like it could damage anything.”

Me: “The machine cuts by means of a laser beam that heats metal enough to vaporize it, with white-hot metal droplets ejected downward, right?”

Manager: “So?”

Me: “And for several weeks you figured it’s a good idea to let it do it next to a large puddle of flammable hydraulic fluid?”

It took him a moment to realize that only by sheer luck did they not set the whole machine on fire.

From that call onward, I made certain to always make it perfectly clear to the clients, in cases where their machines can PHYSICALLY work despite certain issues, that doing so may result in catastrophic damage — even when the risk should be very obvious to anyone with a basic understanding of the machinery.

A Forklift Load Of Attitude

Managers Might Not Foresee What Happens, But Our Readers Will

, , , , , , , | Working | September 26, 2023

Many years ago, I worked for a multinational engineering company in the aerospace industry. At this point in my career, I was on secondment to the Health, Safety, and Environment department, writing procedures at the site and corporate levels. And as such, I would periodically meet up with a group of HS&E managers from other sites.

Before one particular meeting, the HS&E manager of one site was having a bit of a venting session about what had happened at his site. In addition to HS&E manager, he was also the facilities manager for that site. His site was getting ready to move to a brand new facility. One of the things that wasn’t going to be there was a heat treatment plant. The old site had one, but it wasn’t being moved.

Heat treatment is required for things like hardening steels. Being an aerospace company, there are extremely strict processes that have to be followed, and only facilities that have proper aerospace industry accreditation can be used. You can’t take a component that’s going onto an aircraft and have it heat-treated at just any old place; even if that place did it properly, if the place wasn’t certified, you’d be breaking the law to put the component on a plane.

Even with certification, a change of heat treatment plant would require full inspection of the first batch of each component that goes through it. It’s not a quick process. 

Hence the venting session. You see, this move had been known about for a couple of years. And everyone knew that the heat treatment plant at the old site would be switched off for decommissioning on a certain date — no ifs, no buts, no extensions. 

How did everyone know? Aside from the usual site-wide communications, there were regular start-of-the-week production meetings attended by managers at all levels. And this facility manager attended these meetings to remind everyone that on this particular date the heat treatment plant would be switched off. So, that was at least one reminder a week for over a year.

Our meeting happened a few days after The Big Switch-Off. 

He was venting about all the managers who rang him up on Big Switch-Off Day to complain that they couldn’t get their parts heat treated and to demand to know why they hadn’t been told.