Thursday, February 25, 2010

Without Precedent

This is absolutely beyond the pale; totally unbelievable; without precedent...  a true story:

I am working on a project this week with a couple other people.  They were doing their thing, I was going to the next part of the facility to make sure it was ready for my colleagues.  I went into a small aluminum foundry.  This is:
In a noisy location in the factory; clearly labeled as needing hearing protection; has been required for years.  As a matter of fact, I am the one who did the last noise monitoring, and am quite certain it's over the company's OEL.

Me:  are those ear phones?
Worker:  yes
Me:  you do realize those won't protect your hearing?  You do know you're supposed to be wearing earing protection, right?
Worker:  these are okay
Me: actually, no, they're not.  You need to have real ear plugs in.
Worker: it's not such a big deal.
Me:  The Safety Department is going to get on your case about this. Actually, I am getting on your case about it to.

Enter two other men, one of whom is a supervisor.

Supervisor:  What's going on?  friendly tone
Me:  I was just getting on his case about wearing hearing protection.  friendly tone
Supervisor to Worker:  How many times do we have to tell you? tone of frustration
Me:  (thinking "all right!")
Supervisor to Worker: is that a radio you're listening to?
Worker:  No
Supervisor:  come on   .tone of 'don't try to pull one over me'
Worker:  No, it's an iPod
Me:  Bah
Worker:  well it is; it's different
Me:  well the ear plugs are still not protecting your ears
Worker: they're okay
Me:  actually, no, they're not.  You're taking all of the noise in here already and just adding more noise to it.  You really need to use real ear plugs
Supervisor:  waves his hand dismissively and says "don't bother with it"

I was beyond stunned

Me to Supervisor:  Are you blowing me off?
Supervisor:  yes
Me:  That is totally inappropriate.

Quite unfortunately, I was in the middle of leaving when this happened.  So, my immediate departure was likely percieved, or claimed to be, storming off in a snit.  When he said "yes" about blowing me off, he said it in a perfectly normal tone of voice as if it was perfectly natural and obvious.

I went off to an unoccupied part of the plant. Where I swore and cussed a lot. Loudly. Unfortunately some of it was heard by the other two contractors.  It doesn't happen often, that I get so totally enraged.  I waited until I had calmed down, then called the Safety Department manager.  I've worked for him before, and we have a good working relationship.  I asked him what I should or could do.  Unfortunately, the supervisor's ID badge had been flipped around, and I was stuck not being able to immediately identify him by name.

I figured I would just let it be until later.  The photographic org chart was on my desk; I could identify him with it.  Less than 30 minutes later, we were progressing on to the next area of the plant.  Lo, and behold! The supervisor was standing right there.  I was undertain to which group the area belonged, and we needed to know.  So, I walked over to the supervisor and asked him.  I figured this would be a perfectly natural thing to start talking to him; then bring up the issue of his disrespect.  Maybe manage to get his name.

Me:  "Is this area part of Section A?" 
Supervisor:  No, it's one of my areas.

Pow!  I was holding a list of the areas and corresponding supervisors.  At least I would have a name now.  About 5 minutes later, after my colleagues got started, I approached the supervisor again.

Me:  Were you serious when you said you were blowing me off?
Supervisor:  Not really
Me:  That wasn't particularly nice to do in front of the other workers. I was trying to help them.
Supervisor:  Well, you know they're not going to pay attention to you.  You're an independent contractor.  They'll listen to me because I'm another supervisor.

This was becoming surreal.

About half an hour later, my colleagues and I had progressed on to the foundry area.  They started their project.  I checked the worker.  Still no PPE.  I approached the only other worker there. He was wearing a different over-coat, and I thought he might be the team leader.  (The company has Manager > Supervisor > Team Leaders > Workers.)

Me:  Can you tell me who the team leader is?
Him:  I am.
Me:  I would appreciate it if you could tell your worker over there that he needs to wear ear plugs. (pointing at the worker)
Team Leader:  The Supervisor said those were okay.
Me:  Well, he was wrong.  They aren't okay.  They won't protect his hearing.

I leaned over to look at the worker again, since he had just started up another machine.

Me:  Well, perhaps you could go talk to him because right now there's absolutely nothing in his ears at all...

I give kudos to the man in question, since he at least had the balls to blow me off to my face.  Beyond that, though ...?

He has, pretty much without hope of redemption, completely lost all professional respect I might have had for him.  Pow! Five minutes and someone now thinks he's an ignorant schmuck.

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