You would like Chris Falcon if you met him. You’d probably want to hire him. He is a combination of polite, serious, professional, friendly and knowledgeable. He was on our cover back in December 2010 when we wrote about the Home Depot’s distribution strategy (see picture).
I was reminded of Falcon when our staff was researching ideas for a safety-related story by typing the words “forklift accident” into a popular internet search engine. Even though our editors have been desensitized by the violence of “Game of Thrones,” we were shocked by what we saw on the small screen.
[Note: You can take the forklift accident video poll at HBSDealer.com. Better yet, turn to the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association forklift safety program. Recorded in an actual lumberyard environment, the best-practice-rich program has trained thousands of employees across the country, and offers steps towards compliance with OSHA standard 1910.178.]
The accident videos demonstrate that this stuff can’t be exaggerated. And companies at the top — such as Home Depot, which ranks No. 1 on our Top 300 Industry Scoreboard -- embrace that attitude.
That brings us back to Chris Falcon and the time I visited Lake Park, Ga., to tour one of the retailer’s modern distribution centers.
The massive facility was carefully designed — even the tools on the pegboard were outlined to show what tool goes where. More to the point, lines were painted on the floor to guide the paths of foot traffic and forklift traffic. At intersections of these paths, the word “stop” was written for the pedestrian to obey.
During the morning rush, Falcon would stop at these lines, look left, look right and proceed safely.
Now picture this place at lunchtime. Nothing moving for miles. No sound of whirring machinery. And here’s Falcon leading our group to an intersection in the empty building. I wondered if he would stop at the line and look both ways.
Let me emphasize: There’s neither machine nor soul for seemingly miles around. The only sound was our footsteps in this huge, empty space.
Here’s what happened: Falcon walked to the line, stopped, looked left and right, and proceeded safely.
Point made. If you’re going to follow safety best practices only when it’s convenient, then you might as well not follow them.
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