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If You Can’t Stand the Heat

September 30, 2011
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The hot times to be had at an Amazon warehouse came to light the other week.  Check out this great post that flowed from the story over at my friend Laurie Ruettimann’s home The Cynical Girl.

The whole awful mess got me thinking about the times when I used my HR skillz in a logistics/distribution environment.  As a 3PL company we came in and managed production and distribution functions for clients, often working on-site with the customers.  I joined the organization at the time of a start-up; a new contract meant that we acquired the workforce from the previous provider and these guys (and they were all guys) became “our” employees.  Many of them had worked in the same job for 10, 20, even 30 years.  And here we, new managers/bosses from far far away, walked in and found:

  • lack of enforcement for the employees to wear PPE ; in a chemical manufacturing environment
  • stories of employees being subject to nooses left in work areas; and told they better not report it or they would lose their job
  • sweltering heat inside the production facilities
  • bugs, spiders and other assorted critters including the deadly brown recluse which if it bit someone, necessitated sending them down the road to the hospital

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That Amazon story got me thinking about this again.  The temperature in certain areas where our guys spent their day hit 120 degrees.  We know; because the GM and I installed a thermostat to check.  Walking int here was a slap in the face from a heat-puppet.  So we immediately did a few things (mind you..at the end of the day the CLIENT had to pay for these) and met with the following resistance from the CLIENT:

1.  provide chairs for those working the heat-duty so they could sit down and not pass out from the heat (resisted: ‘that will make them lazy’)

2.  add another employee for each shift of heat-duty so as to allow, through some fancy scheduling, everyone to take a break to cooldown in another area every 20 minutes (resisted: ‘too expensive!  We don’t need to pay someone for that!)

3.  provide Gatorade sports drink in addition to the water already provided to assist in alleviating heat-related cramps reported to the plant nurse. (resisted:  water is good enough for them!)

note – resistance did NOT deter us from doing anything we needed to do

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So yeah.  I wasn’t too surprised to read about the Amazon conditions; I know that stuff happens.  Crappy working conditions, shortcuts and just plain lack of common-sense in pursuit of the glory, money or something.

In a dream-like fugue, perhaps heat-induced, I used to have visions of taking one of the CLIENT big shots and making him work in 120 temps for a 12 hour shift wearing a hard hat and steel toe boots.  Then when he was parched and needed a drink I would tell have told him “no Gatorade for you!” and when he passed out from the heat and hit his head on the steel floor because he couldn’t sit down I would have let him lay there.

If he couldn’t stand the heat…he shouldn’t have been in the kitchen.   Right?

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