Things you can learn about your company from what it spends on oil spill clean up products

Sherlock Holmes was famous for the deductions he was able to make from apparently unconnected facts – so now here’s your chance to do the same, by thinking about what you can deduce from the amount of money your company spends (or doesn’t spend) on oil spill clean up products…

The sums your employer spends on oil spill clean up products could be high or low, but either way they’ll tell you a lot about the company you work for – and maybe some home truths about yourself as well.

American good business campaigner Tom Peters summed it up when he said that dirty trays on an airliner might well be a sign that its engines weren’t properly maintained either.

But before we get into the detail, let’s consider the cost of not cleaning up an oil spill, which can be huge, on the emotional as well as financial front. A real-life example concerns the bakery worker who, in August last year, slipped and fell on a floor contaminated with oil and water. She banged her head on the floor and died in hospital the following day.

It’s fair to say that she wasn’t wearing company-approved footwear, and the shoes she had been wearing were a poor choice, but I have no doubt that’s of little comfort to her boss or the company owners. I’d suspect they spend a lot of time trying to answer the question ‘What if…?’ about cleaning up oil spills and enforcing the company’s clothing policies. And the amount of time and money spent on going through the courts hardly bears thinking about. The company would need to sell a lot of bread rolls to cover those bills, but it’s impossible to put a value on the human cost.

That’s an extreme example of the point I’m trying to make; that simple oil spills can turn out to be very expensive.

Oil Spill Clean Up Products

The deductions

Scenario 1: If your company doesn’t spend much on oil spill clean up products, perhaps it doesn’t need to because the workplace is clean, so there’s nothing to clean up. Possible deductions: Well-maintained machinery; well-trained workforce; infrequent spills; good company; secure future.

Scenario 2: But what if there’s a permanent sheen of oil on the floor, with workers slipping about the place like an industrial version of Dancing on Ice, and the company spends nothing on spill clean up products? Possible deductions: The company doesn’t care, and is running the risk of ending up like the bakery I mentioned earlier; ill-trained workforce; ill-maintained and old machinery; inefficiency; company not operating as cost-effectively as it might; long-term profitable future in doubt. All are possible, or it could be a combination of all of these factors.

Scenario 3: New oil spill clean up products are delivered almost daily; everyone knows how to use them correctly, and does so. Possible deductions: Oil spills caused by infrequent machine maintenance; sloppy working practices; money wasted; insufficient management focus on what’s important to efficient processes; willing but untrained workforce; company under pressure from better-organised competitors.

Scenario 4: Oil spill products available at strategic points around the factory, but very infrequent deliveries because the products are rarely used, in spite of oil on the floor. Possible deductions: Disinterested workforce; management short-sighted and out of touch; disjointed manufacturing process and control; company future at risk from financial impact of worker injury.

The actions

Scenario 1: Full marks; keep doing whatever you’re doing to the same high standard.

Scenario 2: Wake up and smell the coffee. Oil spills are signs that a business isn’t as good as it so easily could be, and you’ll eventually slip up – literally and metaphorically. If it’s your business, invest in some oil spill clean up products like these, and train people how to use them. If you’re an employee, show the boss this blog, and explain how you’d like to be trained about controlling oil spills and cleaning them up.

Scenario 3: Great, you’re cleaning up, but it’s time and money wasted. Work out why spills are happening in the first place. Getting to the root cause and eliminating spills will allow the business to be more efficient, and you can get on with what’s important – doing business, instead of lavishing time on side issues that are a drain on resources.

Scenario 4: This is a major training issue, and everyone in the company needs to shoulder some of the blame. Workers shouldn’t be spilling oil; managers shouldn’t be creating the situation that allows spills to continue unchecked. Time for a root and branch analysis of systems and procedures, and the introduction of measures to make the workplace clean and safe. It’ll improve the long-term balance sheet too, and workers need to understand why that’s important to them as much as the company.

Picture: Martin Mates | Dreamstime

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