Saturday, October 3, 2015

"Safety First

Interesting fact about truck driving: it's one of the very few industries not subject to OSHA guidelines. Hard to believe, isn't it, that there are still jobs OSHA isn't concerned about safety at? 
Now, consider the fact the trucking industry is very tightly regulated by the Department of Transportation. With safety being a primary concern. That's sweet of them, ain't it? Oh, wait, it's not TRUCKERS' safety they're concerned with. It's the safety of people in cars. Plus, that freight is super important. True story. 

Where am I going with this? Well, it's like this, I got to a steel mill to unload some freight. I show up in my usual "work" dress code: a pair of khaki cargo shorts, a white ish t-shirt and some canvas high tops. All mostly clean.  And I go into the shipping office. "Where are your sleeves?" Um, right here on my shirt. "No. Go put on proper attire before you can check in." Ugh. 
As it turns out, this place requires steel toed boots, long jeans, long sleeve shirt, safety vest that can be seen from Saturn, and a hard hat. Oh goody. It's only 101 degrees out here in south Alabama. And I've gotta dress like Nanook of the North to pull 80 pound tarps off of freight and roll them up in the dust. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for safety but I think it gets counterproductive. There's no "temperature controlled" indoor facility to go cool off in, no roving water truck to make sure we are hydrated, no ice cream truck to keep me in delicious frozen dairy desserts. Man, I could really use one of those orange sherbet push-ups I loved as a kid. 
Did they come check on us periodically? Sure. Let the sweat cause your hard hat to slide off your head and they'd come get onto you. Like, what, the friggin CLOUDS are gonna fall on my head?! "Breaking news story: a cumulus cloud fell and crushed a man to death who wasn't wearing his hard hat. Other drivers nearby said the cloud bounced right off of their safety helmets but they were helpless to watch the disobedient driver die. Here's Joseph with the story."
"Thanks Maggie. I'm on the scene where the driver fell prey to a rogue cloud earlier. Safety supervisors at the mill say had he worn the proper safety vest and hard hat this could've been prevented. However, since truck drivers don't fall under OSHA rules, no one actually cares. The plant manager said production will continue."

I'm cool with the rules that come with these places. It'd be even cooler if they had an ice cream truck though. Yet I find it interesting that periodically I'll encounter a place that'll put us in the middle of a field and leave us there for hours and expect us to be performing monkeys when they get around to us. 
Sometimes there are 6-7 hour waits after a 10 hour drive and we've gotta be nice while they growl at us. During those waits sleep is impossible most of the time because if we nod off we may lose our place. Yes, that does happen. Take a wee nap and a truck or two may jump ahead of you in line. If you say anything it could lead to a fist fight and I'm just too fat, old and lazy for fisticuffs in the heat of summer. 
Meanwhile, you've got these safety managers riding around in air conditioned pick up trucks drinking ice water and making sure we are complying with all of their safety rules and pitching a fit if our hard hat slips off from all the sweat. Seriously?! How about you fumble around with these heavy, black tarps for a few hours out here, pal?

What's even worse? Just last week a buddy of mine goes to pick up shiny, aluminum pipe with holes all in it. All but the first and last few feet is wrapped in paper. And they want him to tarp it. 
It's 8 feet tall, looking like Swiss cheese in paper wrapping. And they won't even lend him a ladder to climb up on it. Even if he manages to get on top...it's still riddled with holes. That's just a bad situation. You booby trapped this shit and want a driver to walk around on top of it?! 
Ultimately he had to have them unload it because they simply refused to even let him use their ladder. For "safety reasons we can't get up there and help you. It's just too unsafe." Oh, but it's ok for US?! 
They expected him to put an 85 pound tarp on his shoulder, climb up this 1,000 degree pipe like King Kong and walk around on top of a friggin whack-a-mole board. "Hey, it's your job". 

Maybe we really need to start discussing hazard pay.