“Please Do Not Lick Me”

A favorite BBQ place of mine, Mainely Meat on Mt. Desert Island in Maine,  has a silhouette of a Sasquatch in the middle of its outside dining area.  It’s a fun thing to put the kids next to for a picture.  One day, last summer, I was seated behind the Sasquatch and noticed some writing on the back.  It said “Please don’t lick me.”  It was one of those things that I was not going to be able to let go of without finding out the story.

“Please Do Not Lick Me” written on back of Sasquatch – all because someone licked Sasquatch.

When I asked the waitress, she said that they felt that they had to place the instructions on Sasquatch after they brought out an order to a table, only to find somebody licking Sasquatch.  She finished the story with “I never thought I’d have to tell people to not lick a big wooden silhouette of Sasquatch.” 

At that point, I looked at a friend who was dining with us and we both laughed.  He is a park ranger and we have both sat down numerous times to share stories of people doing silly things that should have never happened in the first place.

I was sharing this story recently when I was out in the field doing interviews of personnel to write a job description for a public works department.  The two employees laughed, started to say that something like that would never happen, and then began to remember some things that they have seen and agreed with my comment that most rules are put in place because of somebody doing something that wasn’t the brightest idea.

At the most simple level, we all deal with this when buying electronics and footwear.  Almost all shoes come with a silica gel pack to absorb moisture emblazoned with the instructions “Do Not Eat”.  The gel packs are not poisonous but the beads don’t break down and can become a choking hazard – this happens more frequently than one would expect.

Often, TV commercials have disclaimers to remind viewers that a car or motorcycle was driven at high performance levels on closed tracks and that you shouldn’t try it at home or if you aren’t a professional stunt driver.

A warning statement because somebody might try to travel back to the future in a Delorean.

Recently, popular culture has had several products that have been involved in dangerous fads, such as eating Tide pods.  It doesn’t take much to know that consuming a Tide pod is a bad idea but some people still tried it anyway.  With the recent pandemic, this has extended to drinking bleach or consuming other chemicals in hopes of preventing an infection.

There is a great Twitter feed, @safetyphoto that reinforces the concept that sometimes we need to remind people not to do something – even though we think that nobody would try doing it.  If you’ve had the thought that nobody would be dumb enough to try a certain action, you probably need a sign because it isn’t a matter of if, it is a matter of when.  In the field, I have had people explain to me how they perform certain tasks and then they stop to think for a minute about the process they shared.  That pause is typically followed with “You don’t work for OSHA, do you?”

Feel free to share your stories of “things you thought people wouldn’t do” in the comments. 

What Not To Do Wednesday – 3/22/17

Two recent stories have popped up in the last week that have to do with the wording of job descriptions and the impact of choice of words as well as the choice to use/not use the Oxford Comma.

In Maine, three truck drivers for Oakhurst Dairy sued their employer over the non-payment of overtime hours.  The case went to the 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals and hinged on a small detail – the Oxford Comma.  Maine law specifies specific tasks that are exempt from overtime pay:

The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of:

(1) Agricultural produce;

(2) Meat and fish products; and

(3) Perishable foods.

The legal question hinges on whether “packing for shipment or distribution of” means “packing for shipment or distribution of” or “packing for shipment” and “distribution of” are two separate tasks.  The drivers were not a part of the packing for shipment (or packing for shipment and distribution) but were part of the distribution of the product.

Currently, the Court of Appeals has sided with the drivers that the statement means packing for “shipment and distribution” and not inclusive of the distribution of the packed product.  This missing comma has a potential value in the millions of dollars.

In a separate case, noted on John Geaney’s Workcomp Blog, he details the case of a pharmaceutical sales representative who developed vision problems that prevented her from being able to drive.  When the sales representative lost her ability to drive due to vision issues, she requested that Pfizer, her employer, provide her with a driver to drive her to sales appointments.  Pfizer declined this option and offered her a change in position to one which did not require driving to sales appointments.  The sales representative turned down that offer and filed an ADA case.  The case revolves around whether driving is an essential demand of the position.  Pfizer contends that driving to and from sales appointments is an essential demand while the sales representative contends that the ability to travel to and from sales appointments is the essential demand.  Unfortunately, the employer never listed the ability to drive or the requirement of a driver’s license as essential demands of the position. The appeals court has remanded the trial so that it can be determined whether driving is an essential demand for the position.

While this What To Do Wednesday post isn’t the typical, don’t be like the guy in this picture or story, it still presents important information of What Not To Do.  It can no longer be assumed that because a task is an essential demand due to longstanding tradition or an assumption of common sense dictates it to be.  Also, employers need to be aware of the potential grammar issues in job descriptions that may pose a problem when it comes to either payment for work performed or whether assigned tasks are included in the tasks covered by a specific law.