The case of the lost ladder

KC Boxbottom in Product Safety on October 20, 2014

Casey was showing off his packaging line. When we got to the end of the line, my heart almost stopped. One of the mechanics was making adjustments on the top of the case packer, about 7 feet above the floor. He was standing on a rolling utility cart.

Casey saw it too and quickly ordered him down. When asked for an explanation, Bob the mechanic told him that he was in a hurry and did not have time to go back to the shop for a proper ladder.

"Is this adjustment something you do routinely?" I asked the mechanic.

"Yes, it is," he told me.

I continued drilling down, "Why not store a proper ladder in the room?"

"We try," Bob told me, "but someone always borrows it and we never know where it is and it takes time to find it. Sometimes we just have to sacrifice a bit of safety to get the job done."

"Fiddlesticks on sacrificing safety, for any reason." Casey roared. (Hey! That's supposed to be my line.) "Bob, you have to always keep in mind that safety is the priority here, first and foremost, before anything else, including production."

I nodded agreement. "Casey's righter then right. But maybe there is a way to avoid the problem of lost ladders. Suppose you build the ladder into the machine? This can be fold-down steps or even ladder rungs welded between frame members. Those won't ever walk off."

Never sacrifice safety for speed or convenience.



KC Boxbottom, packaging detective, is on the case to solve tough packaging puzzles. He is the alter-ego of John Henry, CPP. Known as the Changeover Wizard, Henry is the owner of, a consulting firm that helps companies find and fix the causes of inefficiencies in their packaging operations. He produces a free monthly newsletter called Lean Changeover, which contains articles and tips on changeover and related issues. Reach him at [email protected].

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