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When you work a job that requires you to get a forklifting license you definitely need to know some of the regulations and rules before you can get approved. There’s a ton of general information regarding how high to stack product, how to drive the forklift, how to use racking properly and more, just so that OSHA doesn’t come and ruin your day. Knowing all this information can make the job so much easier but the fact is, not all places pay attention to those rules and one lowly yard worker isn’t going to be able to change the way a business runs without getting OSHA down there, which will probably mean massive fines and a potential closure for any small business. Where I worked, I knew OSHA could easily shut down this small hardware store. We barely had a lumberyard but what we had of one was insanely unsafe and unsanitary.
That said, it was also one of the best jobs I have had in a while. I learned a lot there. I had never been a huge carpenter guy, I’d never driven a forklift, and I’d never really done any kind of heavy lifting. Being introduced into this world was great but the fact is I wasn’t prepared and neither were my coworkers. We were all under 25 and running this yard by ourselves, hardly any management came outside but when they did they wanted things done and with no excuses. This lead to an unsafe amount of things being stacked up by fences, unreliable racking is being used to store items, lots of mistakes and unsafe forklifting. I learned a lot thanks to the freedom we had but it wasn’t the best way to run a store, that’s for sure.
The story I am confessing here today comes from just one day out at that job. We used to store these large stacks of peat moss, 4 cubic feet each bag, and we would stack a pallet about 15 feet tall and have it sitting next to the fence. Of course, behind it was some flagstone because we didn’t have space anywhere else.
One day, a coworker of mine had me drive a stack of peat moss over and push the three pallets in a column up against the fence to make room. I started to push with the forks and it felt like I had hit the fence, my coworker assured me that I had room to go further. I put the gas on and pressed the forks harder and all of a sudden the peat moss tumbled over the flagstone, ripping the bags apart and knocking them into the small creek behind the fence. IF that wasn’t enough, the weight of the many bags of peat moss knocked the pallet of flagstone over, sending many of them into the small lake area as well.
My coworker and I ran down to the small creek area and looked at the mess. We knew that we had to tell someone if we were going to clean it up but instead of taking the fall we just didn’t mention it. I thought that for sure someone would notice that much product missing but nope. I worked there for quite a while longer and it was never even brought up. Of course, we had to correct inventory but we had yellow slips to make corrections and I just made them, entered them in the computer and no one ever said a word.
It’s incredible how much these yard and warehouse jobs let people get away with when they are privately owned. I’ll never forget seeing those piles of stone and bags of peat moss go flying over the barbed wire fence as I sat in the forklift helplessly.