Saturday, April 11, 2015
Is your Supervisor the Real Safety Hazard?
By Mel Carriere
Please excuse my extended absence. The normally irrepressible, coastal wrecking Tsunami was dammed and channeled into submission by a sore throat and headache I have been battling for the last couple of days. My brain felt like a bag of wet garbage that has been marinating in the sun for three days, and there were no ideas at all dripping out of that malodorous mush. All the same, I finally beat the bug by going to bed early Thursday and Friday. I think my brain is cranking again; I'll let you be the judge of whether I should continue writing or just go back to sleep.
I managed to keep one droopy, feverish eye on Facebook as I convalesced, and there was a lot of buzz there about the LLV that overturned in Prince Georges, Maryland. You can see the gruesome aftermath for yourself in the photo above. There seems to be no official statement of the identity of the employee yet, who is reported to be in critical condition, but of course the word gets around on social media by the coworkers of this letter carrier, and reliable people with a lot of online contacts report that the carrier involved in the accident is a Rural Carrier Associate (RCA) who was speeding and not wearing his seat belt.
Speeding and not wearing a seat belt were admittedly both very poor decisions on the part of this letter carrier, who is paying the price for his recklessness. But it is not surprising to me that he did it, because we see this sort of thing every day, mostly among our newest employees, the RCAs and CCAs of the world, who get caught cutting corners all the time in a desperate attempt to shave a second here and a second there to appease the ridiculously unrealistic expectations of their supervisors. What is surprising to me is the lack of fingers I see pointing at Postal Management, who undoubtedly created the climate that sent this RCA flying from his vehicle and his LLV flipping over across the median, where it came to rest considerably worse for the wear in the unnatural position it appears in the above photo. If the condition of the LLV is any clue, I shudder to think about how the driver wound up.
I'm sure the morning after the accident they had a somber little stand up talk at the station where this carrier worked, probably delivered by the same supervisor who was cracking the whip behind that RCA the day his LLV flipped over. While painfully biting his or her tongue, this supervisor most assuredly told the assembled employees to slow down and to make sure to wear seat belts. We've all attended this concert before, and we'll be there again. Then, after the gloomy little speech was over this same supervisor probably went about distributing the work load the same way as the day of the accident, perhaps piling on even more since they were now short a body.
The audience for that speech was undoubtedly peppered by several grizzled old veterans like you and I, shaking their heads smugly and self-righteously while thinking about what this youngster involved in the accident should have done or what he shouldn't have done. It's easy to say "Oh, I would never do that," when your job is safe and you can take your time without any fear of not passing probation or not being brought back when your year is up, or whatever time period applies for the RCAs. But if you think back, way back, there was a probably a time when many of us freshly minted letter carriers were doing the same sort of things to shave a minute here or there to meet the impossible demands of some barking, bulldog boss. Who hasn't left the seat belt off to be able to jump in and out of the vehicle quicker on stop and hop deliveries? Who hasn't driven a mounted route with mail on the arm? Luckily the great majority of us lived through these days and grew older and wiser in the process, so that we could stand in judgement of one who did not come out so well.
Here we are in the present, therefore, pointing a self-righteous finger at this young man instead of directing our digit toward where it really belongs, which is Postal Management. And such is the reason why these abusive practices and policies never get changed; because we focus too much on the symptoms of the disease - the RCA that flipped his vehicle over and is now lying in a hospital bed; and not on the underlying cause of the disease - this being the supervisors and managers pushing this unfortunate fellow, all of whom are sleeping tonight in their own beds. We all nod solemnly at that stand up talk, say of course we agree that he should have been wearing his seat belt and that's the end, the investigation stops there. Delivery supervisors are never held accountable for their culpability in shamelessly dishing out unrealistic expectations to employees driving dangerous, poorly maintained vehicles in order to drive meaningless, misleading, manipulable "variances" that are the end all of everything in the management mindset. Maintenance supervisors are rarely held accountable for faking reports to keep this chicken wire and duct-tape patched LLV fleet illegally and immorally on the road. And meanwhile this poor kid lying in the hospital somehow winds up as the villain of the piece, rather than the victim that he really is.
The Postal Tsunami is a powerful wave propelled by copious quantities of Starbuck's coffee, which is not cheap. I have nothing to do with ad selection here, but unless these ads completely annoy or offend you I would appreciate if you could check out what my sponsors to the right and down below have to say. Thanks for your support.
Photo from: http://www.wjla.com/articles/2015/04/man-critically-hurt-in-postal-truck-crash-on-route-450-in-bowie-113050.html