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How to deal with an overzealous Safety department at work?

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How to deal with an overzealous Safety department at work?

Old 10-15-12, 10:36 AM
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sac02
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How to deal with an overzealous Safety department at work?

I'm in the process of getting my work to install some bike lockers so me and others can bike commute to work. I've got the budget, and the HR, Facilities, and Security departments on board so far.

The current issue is the Safety department. (Unfortunately, there are no cyclists in the Safety department to help me out here, haha) Safety are pushing back, basically due to the viewpoint that it is fundamentally unsafe for vehicles and bicycles to operate together in the parking lot. I know everyone who doesn't ride thinks that we are all crazy nutjobs with a deathwish on two wheels, but not allowing us to bike commute because of their misunderstanding is taking the "safety first" mentality too far I feel. The cars in the parking lot regularly operate in close proximity to motorcycles and pedestrians, how is this different?

The most recent discussion I had with Safety ended with their comment (paraphrasing), "Well, we'll look into it, but don't get your hopes up. MAYBE if we can find a countermeasure we deem acceptable, such as making the cyclists wear enough reflective clothing, or make a dedicated bike lane, or have the bicycles escorted from the front gate to the lockers, then we can work something out."

I should point out that there is NO equipment traffic in the parking lot or the roads from the Front Gate to parking lot (proposed bike locker location). All heavy equipment, forklifts, etc. operate only inside the inner gates of the plant.

Has anyone had to deal with a situation like this?

I am not unreasonable, and I feel that I understand their point of view - "safety first" is reasonable, and they want to eliminate (maybe a better word is "mitigate") anything they see as a potential safety concern. I also understand that not everybody that would choose to bike commute may be as responsible about their safety (and responsibilities as a cyclist) as I am.

What would you recommend that I could do or say to try to make them understand that bikes and cars can and do share the road? What approach would you take?

Thanks.

Last edited by sac02; 10-15-12 at 12:40 PM.
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Old 10-15-12, 10:50 AM
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This would never happen where I work. Mostly because my employer is enlightened, but also because the safety folks are among those I manage.

I find their antagonist stance to be curious. It is either based on one of 3 things: 1)some sort of past negative experience, 2)they are being advised by insurance or legal folks, or 3)they are being bad cops for a higher manager who doesn't like the idea but does not want to look like the bad guy.

I would challenge them in a nice way to describe the reasons for their recommendations.

-G
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Old 10-15-12, 10:51 AM
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Oh this is way too obvious... tell them that you'll walk your bike through the parking lot like all the pedestrians walking in from their cars. Unless of course they feel that pedestrians should not mix with motor traffic.

Other than that all too obvious solution... take the road outside of the parking lot all the way down to the far end of the parking lot and then come in around the bottom (by the picture) avoiding most of the motor traffic (except that traffic on the road... which is just like the traffic outside the gate.)
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Old 10-15-12, 10:53 AM
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What is the speed limit inside the gate? If it's, say 20 mph, there is no great speed disparity between cycles and cars.
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Old 10-15-12, 11:03 AM
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If all else fails, and they're OK with pedestrians, just tell them that you'll walk your bike from the gate to the bike locker location, if they feel that it'll be safer. They can't keep people from walking to work, can they?

[edit]
Sorry genec, apparently it's too much work for me to read all 4 responses before replying. Great minds think alike.

Last edited by ChrisM2097; 10-15-12 at 11:10 AM.
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Old 10-15-12, 11:05 AM
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Doesn't the military allow bicycles on base? If so, I'd imagine they'd have some guidelines on similar issues.
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Old 10-15-12, 11:11 AM
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Originally Posted by gmt13 View Post
... I find their antagonist stance to be curious. ...
-G
Well, it's not necessarily that they are antagonistic, just... uninformed/misinformed/unenlighted (to use your word). The Safety "culture" is pretty strong here, our plant has some of the lowest incident rates in the industry, so the Safety department is doing somethings right. The downside is that sometimes (I feel) the Safety thing is over-the-top - this being a good example. Safety has a lot of "power", where absolutely no project can proceed without their blessing, or if you want a new computer monitor, all you have to do is raise the safety/ergo flag by dropping the words "eye strain", and you've have a nice new monitor on your desk that afternoon.

Originally Posted by genec View Post
Oh this is way too obvious... tell them that you'll walk your bike through the parking lot like all the pedestrians walking in from their cars. Unless of course they feel that pedestrians should not mix with motor traffic. ...
Originally Posted by Doohickie View Post
What is the speed limit inside the gate? If it's, say 20 mph, there is no great speed disparity between cycles and cars.
Two good points that I can use, thanks. And yes, I think the speed limit is 20mph on plant roads, 10mph in the parking lots.
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Old 10-15-12, 11:12 AM
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Originally Posted by genec View Post
Oh this is way too obvious... tell them that you'll walk your bike through the parking lot like all the pedestrians walking in from their cars. Unless of course they feel that pedestrians should not mix with motor traffic.
This!
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Old 10-15-12, 11:16 AM
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Originally Posted by gmt13 View Post
I find their antagonist stance to be curious. It is either based on one of 3 things: 1)some sort of past negative experience, 2)they are being advised by insurance or legal folks, or 3)they are being bad cops for a higher manager who doesn't like the idea but does not want to look like the bad guy.
I spent a couple years of my life working in a safety department. The problem isn't any of the above, the problem is that workplace safety is not a science and statistics based discipline. The whole concept is that (based on nothing but opinion and gut feelings) safety departments will put together a risk matrix of severity-of-outcome versus likelihood of incident. If they can imagine a scenario where someone ends up dead, it goes to the top of the list of things to prevent, even if the probability is basically zero. This is because no safety department will ever admit that something they can imagine is basically impossible.

At least at my office, the mandate of the safety department included health and environment, so promoting cycling was an easier sell. If what you have is actually an HSE department, then making an appeal based on the other two pillars of their mandate is your best approach.

If that fails, then you're in a bit of trouble. Because Safety isn't science-based, rational arguments are unlikely to work. Bringing in stats about lower sick days, low injury rate, and maybe play it against the risk of motorcyclists, which I'd bet are already permitted. It's unlikely to work, but better to try than not. What you're facing is probably an individual in the department who is convinced that bicycles are death-traps, and no amount of evidence will convince them otherwise. See if there's anything resembling an industry best practice for cycling on the job site. "What other people are doing" is a more convincing argument than "it's not actually dangerous" for some reason.

As a last resort, suggest a "safe work procedure" that includes walking the bike within the parking lot might work, and will then be ignored with much the same frequency as all the other safe work procedures, but cover the employer's legal ass if something does happen. CYA is the gold standard of Safety.
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Old 10-15-12, 11:17 AM
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I imagine there is a safety issue, mainly because drivers drive too fast through parking lots so they can't see. A walking pedestrian can stop instantly but a bike will take longer to stop. Of course that is still the auto driver's fault (depending on circumstances) But I am actually extra careful if I ride through a parking lot since cars may come from any direction and not even follow the lane markings. (Hmm )

maybe they want to be sure bikes don't cross through the middle of lanes (like the cars do), in which case, ask them to paint a bike lane from the gate to the lockers and have bikers say they'll use it instead of cutting diagonally through the lot. I am not saying bike lanes are necessarily safer in this context, but it might get the lockers approved.

also some signage like "yield to bikes and peds" etc, might be added at intersections

Also point out the risks of not installing the lockers: bicyclists will start locking to any pole, be less controlled, increase risk of theft and vandalism occuring

edit: yes as the poster above said "what other people are doing", if you can find case studies of accidents from adding lockers and racks at other businesses that would help the most. It would be the only real hard data for them to look at and feel better.

Safety (and IT Architect) departments seem to have their main function be to block innovation.
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Old 10-15-12, 12:07 PM
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What a bunch of bull-pucky, in one place I used to work they (millwrights, electricians) actually use bikes (trikes) at the workplace to carry tools and get from one place to another faster than walking and cheaper than buggies (big aluminium plant) with lots of other traffic everywhere, (forklifts...)
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Old 10-15-12, 12:30 PM
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Sounds like you work with some "class A" morons (fitting the lower end of that scale), or complete @$$**les. Seems this kind of stupidity is far too prevalent and only becoming more so. To think that one would encounter and have to deal with this kind of stupidity is beyond me. I am speaking not from the point of view of a cyclist, but just common sense. Even before I got back into cycling, if people had wanted to ride their bikes to work and needed a place to park them, the only thing I would have concerned myself with was security for their bikes. Other than that there is nothing more to it, and anyone trying to make more of it than that is IMO, just full of ***t. Sounds like a government agency. If not, an organization competing with government agencies in the race to find dumber ways of doing everything. If others disagree, that is fine, this is just how I do things - and my experiences with gov't agencies.

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Old 10-15-12, 12:44 PM
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And what does your Lawyer say? might need the courts to level the power imbalance .
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Old 10-15-12, 01:09 PM
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Pardon the obvious, but how does your company treat a person walking to work?
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Old 10-15-12, 01:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Ns1 View Post
Pardon the obvious, but how does your company treat a person walking to work?
There may be an official policy, but I'm not sure. We're a manufacturing plant, outside of city limits in the middle of nowhere. The nearest housing is a few miles away, so I doubt they have had to deal with this directly. But it is a valid question that I can pose to our Safety department, if they propose to treat cyclist differently.

neil, I'd say your post is spot-on. I have never been under the illusion that decisions here are made by anything remotely resembling a rational though. Gut feelings personal biases all the way, baby!
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Old 10-15-12, 01:29 PM
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Crazy idea: Is there room in the budget for adding speed bumps to the parking lot?
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Old 10-15-12, 01:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Ns1 View Post
Pardon the obvious, but how does your company treat a person walking to work?
How about bike lockers right outside the security gate were the security guards would be obligated to watch over the bikes combined with a shuttle from the guard house to the plant entrance? Add in a Biggest Looser competition to improve health and lower medical costs would make it harder for them to say no, especially if there are a number of you wanting to ride.
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Old 10-15-12, 01:57 PM
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Originally Posted by no motor? View Post
Doesn't the military allow bicycles on base? If so, I'd imagine they'd have some guidelines on similar issues.
Yes, they do; at least on the Navy bases I've been on they do.
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Old 10-15-12, 02:57 PM
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Originally Posted by no motor? View Post
Doesn't the military allow bicycles on base? If so, I'd imagine they'd have some guidelines on similar issues.
I think the military may have a different approach to workplace safety than sac02's employer. When getting shot at is just part of the job description, it's a little easier to keep the risks of everyday life in perspective.
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Old 10-15-12, 03:05 PM
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Have the Safety Commitee do a "Bike Awarness" Tailgate meeting for all department. Everyone needs to be inform of the fact that there will be bike on the premises. All traffics, motorist, bicyclist and Ped should be inform and reminded of any safety rules in the parking lot and any precaution needs to be inform Good for the cyclist, motorist, Ped, company and insurance co.
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Old 10-15-12, 03:37 PM
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I don't know specific laws or anything, but can they actually dictate that certain types of vehicles are not allowed on the premises (I'm assuming on private property they could dictate whatever they want)? If they don't allow bicycles, shouldn't they also not allow cars? This seems ridiculous to me, almost like a law is being violated. Too bad there aren't laws for narrow-mindedness.
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Old 10-15-12, 04:30 PM
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I think they start out in a losing position with this opposition to installing bike racks.... if bikes in the parking lot were a real concern, wouldn't there already be a "no bikes and/or cyclists dismount" sort of sign at the ENTRANCE to the parking lot?
Some power-grab people have nothing better to do than say "but pigs might fall out of the sky!"... and then no one has the sense to bebutt their nonsense. Those bullies are then further empowered to be an obstruction to common sense the next time.
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Old 10-15-12, 05:44 PM
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Originally Posted by teachme View Post
Yes, they do; at least on the Navy bases I've been on they do.
Originally Posted by neil View Post
I think the military may have a different approach to workplace safety than sac02's employer. When getting shot at is just part of the job description, it's a little easier to keep the risks of everyday life in perspective.
The Navy has been screwed up just as much as anyone else for both bicycle and motorcycle safety.

As to bicycle safety, one of my oversight jobs was overseeing the safety department of a large Navy command. The Navy wide safety office mandated that if you were riding your own bicycle, you had to wear a bicycle helmet, but if you are riding a Navy owned bicycle, no helmet was required (apparently too expensive to buy thousands of shipyard workers bicycle helmets with no/ extremely small financial benefit). When I asked them for all studies and data they had for bicycle helmet safety, they said they had none, it was just common sense.
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Old 10-15-12, 07:17 PM
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Wow. I can't imagine that kind of thing. So do they have cameras around the parking lot to insure that everyone drives safely/has their seat belts on and are not being "allegedly" distracted?

I think you are clearly being discriminated against. You are being treated unfairly because of your "vehicular orientation"

Personally, I would want to understand the companies policy toward something like this. I could understand if the company didn't want to assume responsibility of peoples property..(which is easy enough to get around) Or if they didn't care to field complaints about someone's BO. Regardless, it seems to me that if they want to take a stand against something there would be documented policy explaining this position.
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Old 10-15-12, 07:56 PM
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In large, bureaucratic organizations, it's best just to act and ask for forgiveness later when you get challenged. Although, in this case it might be too late since you tried to do it the proper way and have already raised awareness.

I work in a very large technical complex of over 10,000 employees that even has its own dedicated entrance/exit ramp to the interstate. I park in one of the parking garages since it is the closest spot to the fitness area where I shower and change in the locker rooms. Some of the surface parking lots are almost a half mile away from where I lock up my bike. One day after work I came out and found a warning sticker taped to my bike with a copy of the official facility parking policy that prohibits the parking of bicycles in the garages. Of course I threw it out and ignored it, just daring security to put a boot on my bike wheel! If they did, I was thinking of buying a decrepit beater, putting a bike rack on it and parking it in the garage so I'd have a place to put my bike when I got to work. Fortunately, the overzealous security personnel who tagged my bike never pressed the issue.
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