FLANGING 82

I’ve posted about meetings we’ve had for various reasons.  But we’ve had regular meetings, too.  Before Trinity bought Brighton we had department meetings.  The flanger operators would gather in the break room with the foremen and plant manager and quality manager and sales manager to discuss problems.  These meetings became so predictable the company quit having them.  We would complain about the condition of the machines or the lack of tools or the amount of time allotted to jobs, while they would complain about our production (lack of) and our rework (too much of).  We’d try to explain difficulties we had with jobs.  But they didn’t know what we were talking about.  As I’ve said before, management has no idea how we do what we do, they just expect us to do it faster.

There was also something called ‘BAD guy’.  They posted flyers about it, put down footprints in the hall and break room, did a real production, before revealing what BAD was.  It was an acronym for ‘Buck A Day’.  We were supposed to come up with cost saving ideas for the company, no matter how small, the idea being saving a buck a day adds up over time.  We were supposed to turn these ideas in for free.  As you can imagine, the program didn’t last very long.  For a while the company offered bonuses for ideas that saved money.  But most of these pay-outs went to maintenance men, since they knew the machinery better than anybody else, so that was discontinued because the company came to believe that innovations like these should be part of their job anyway.

For a while when Trinity owned us we started our work day by doing exercises.  This didn’t last long, either.  Everyone was goofing off, and it was taking too much time.

Now with Enerfab we have safety meetings.  I’ll get to them at a later post.  But recently we have started having quarterly production meetings.  These are interesting. Management gives presentations from every aspect of the business:  production, quality control, maintenance, sales, and safety.  The meetings last about an hour.  The sales presentation is the most interesting.  We learn a lot about our customers, information the company had never revealed before.  The meetings last about an hour, for which we are paid.

There are also regularly-scheduled tests.  We get an annual hearing test.  My hearing has deteriorated, but not as badly as you might think, with me working in such a noisy environment.  I’ve always worn good hearing protection.  The test is given in a van.  It is a painless procedure.  We also have an annual fit test for our respirator.  We are supposed to wear them when grinding on stainless steel, to protect us from airborne chromium. Everyone has been issued a half-face respirator.

half-face-respirator

For the test, I put this on and adjust it for a tight fit, then the person administering the test squirts some vile vapor in my face.  I don’t know what the stuff is, but it’s wicked.  If your respirator doesn’t fit tightly and you get a whiff of it, you can’t help but cough.  But these respirators have caused a big uproar.  To get a tight seal on your face you can’t have any facial hair.  A lot of men I work with have beards.  So they have been forced to either shave their beard off, or trim them in a way that allows a tight seal.  Some men really like their beards, so this has caused a lot of grumbling.

We also have to pee in a cup.  Every three months or so the company draws so many names at random, and you are grabbed with no warning for a drug test.  You can’t leave the room until you can provide a urine sample.  If they nab you at the end of the shift, you can pick up some easy overtime pay that way.  You remain on the clock until you can pee.  I’ve been selected just after going to the bathroom, so I end up foundering myself on water, trying to force something to come out.  Of course there is never a question of me passing a drug test.  I quit drinking 24 years ago, and I’ve never taken any hard drugs.  One of the biggest problems is prescription drugs.  In the kind of work we do there are a lot of back injuries, for which people take pain killers, and these can be potent drugs.  If we are prescribed a narcotic medicine, we not only have to inform the company but we have to bring in a release signed by the prescribing physician that we are able to perform our job while taking this drug.  I have had several injuries and surgeries over the years where I’ve been prescribed pain medication.  I hate taking them, and quit as soon as I can stand to.  They make me fuzzy-headed and drowsy, and I hate that feeling.  I’ve never had to take any while working.  So I’ve never had to ask my doctor to sign that form.  No matter the reason, if you fail a drug test you can’t go back to work until you pass one.  On top of that, you have to enter a rehab program, for which you are required to pay yourself.  But the company won’t fire you, at least not the first time.  I’m not sure how many chances you get.  But once you return to work after completing rehab, the company can test you at any time, it doesn’t have to be random.  I’m sure if you continue to fail, they can eventually fire you, I’m just don’t know how many fails you are allowed.  It’s never been a problem with me.

We have an open house every so often.  The company has food catered, and we bring our families through the shop to show them the kind of work we do.  Of course, the company has us scrub the shop clean beforehand, so our wives can’t understand how we come home so dirty when we work in such a clean place.  Ha!

We also have health screenings once a year.  A nurse comes in and takes a blood sample, upon which a battery of tests are run.  This is how I learned I was pre-diabetic.  So the tests are worthwhile.  There are other health-related events the company sponsors.  A nurse is brought in to give free flu shots to us and our spouses.  There is a van that comes annually to give a free mammogram screening to our wives.  Back in the 80’s a van came by annually for blood donations.  There was good participation for this, until AIDS became such a scary thing.  People were afraid the disease could be contracted by donating blood, which of course it can’t.  But when the AIDS scare first swept through the country there were all kinds of rumors.  So participation became negligible, and the van quit coming.

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