Saturday, November 20, 2010
In high-decibel level manufacturing areas, hand signals are often used to communicate. I was assigned to an area where it was well-known that the men did not want women working and the workers there did everything they could to make the women quit. I was warned how rough it was going to be, but it was "my turn in the barrel." My job was at the end of the line--the "take-off" job where one loaded the product onto a pallet. My training on the job lasted approximately two minutes:
1. "Here's the order--measure every fifteen minutes."
2. "Don't turn this machine off UNLESS your arm is caught in it!"
I soon noticed the men down the line using a variety of hand signals. After about a half-hour a different size product started coming down the line. I started stacking them on a scrap pallet, but soon ran out of pallets. I realized that the order had changed and nobody had warned me! I went over and kicked the big red button which shut off the line. I got in the gangway and held my thumb and forefinger together and waved the other three fingers. The Operator, Leadman and Supervisor all rushed up to my station. The Operator screamed at me, "Why the f--- did you shut off the line?" The Leadman asked, "What the f---does that hand signal mean?" The Supervisor asked, "What's going on here?"
I said, holding my thumb and forefinger together and waving, "This is a flying butthole--which is what ALL of you are for not telling me that you were changing orders!" The Supervisor asked, "Didn't you see the signal they were changing orders?" I said, "Nobody explained ANY signals!" The Supervisor said to the Leadman, "Get your ass on that job right now," and he took me to the break area and explained all the hand signals used. I told the Supervisor "They were all too busy conspiring to get rid of me that they weren't worried about what was good for the Company!" I returned to work and I always say that "I not only survived, I triumphed!"
Years later, when I became the FIRST female Supervisor and that Supervisor became a General Supervisor, we were together in a training session about good communication and each of us in the group was supposed to give examples of good and bad communication. The General Supervisor told the group the story of a young employee who had not been trained and how the employee shut down the line, got in the middle of the gangway and gave a hand signal with thumb and index finger together with the other three fingers waving and he said the story was an example of good AND bad communication. The General Supervisor looked to me and asked, "Did I tell it pretty accurate?"