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During one of my contracts in marine freight forwarding I worked with a Maintenance Foreman who was responsible for isolating and identifying nonoperational forklifts used to move cargo. His habit was to remove the forklifts to a corner and attach a small (grubby) tag marked ‘DO NOT USE’ to each one.

Unfortunately, the night shift operators would decide that they needed an extra forklift, or another forklift would go out of action, and they would take one of the deficient forklifts back into operation. Much cursing, wasted time and frustration occurred the next day in tracking the whereabouts of the OOO forklifts. Clearly, the identification was inadequate for the job it was supposed to do.

With the QAM’s involvement, we set up a segregation (quarantine) area marked “NONCONFORMING ITEM: DO NOT REMOVE”. We devised a big tag with a skull and cross bones and the words ‘OUT OF ORDER! DO NOT MOVE!’ As identity for a nonconforming item (a controlled document) the tag carried a serial number, an NCR number from the NCR Log and a brief account of why the machine was out of action (leaking oil, gears seized).

This example shows that often people do not follow procedures and other instructions if they are not expressed in sufficiently dramatic, simple or sizeable terms, especially when they are in a hurry, or working under extremely difficult or hazardous conditions.

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