When Work Ethic Goes Too Far: An Important Story Hidden in the Mayfield Candle Factory Disaster

The construction superintendent growled. Muttered cuss words under his breath.

Translation “Get lost. I don’t have time for this.”

“This” were the safety concerns two of his crew members had told me about. One crew member had already left. If the foreman figured out who had called me, that employee wouldn’t have long on this project.

The construction foreman and I shared a lot in common. We both cared about work. We both gave our jobs everything we had.

One crucial difference. I place people first, knowing there might be job consequences. Deadlines missed.

Placing people first means ensuring safety. Because who cares about a deadline if it costs life?

Fortunately I worked directly with the owners, who believed in safety and truly didn’t know some of the top performers under them cut multiple safety corners to meet performance expectations. The answer: communication. The owners called an “all hands” meeting and clarified — when there’s a conflict between safety and production — safety wins.

If the reports about how managers and supervisors spoke to employees when a catastrophic tornado approached are true, what happened at the Mayfield Candle Factory serves as a horrific object lesson for managers and supervisors who forget that people and safety come first.

Allegedly, fifteen employees beseeched managers to allow them to take shelter at their own homes when word concerning the coming storm spread, only to be warned by three or more managers they’d be fired if they left their shifts early.1, 2

According to reports given NBC, “workers were on the line until the sirens went off, just minutes before the tornado ripped the building apart.”1

Eight employees died. The factory was leveled.

Company officials denied the employee allegations.

I don’t know if the four employees who spoke to the media told the truth. I suspect they might have. Because sometimes managers forget that people and safety come first.

1 https://www.wave3.com/2021/12/14/nbc-employees-candle-factory-claim-supervisors-said-they-could-be-fired-leaving-during-storm/

2 https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/kentucky-tornado-factory-workers-threatened-firing-left-tornado-employ-rcna8581

If you liked this post, you’ll like the real stories in Managing for Accountability, https://bit.ly/3CTFTKVBusiness Expert Press, 2021. Because managers have to show accountability if they expect employees to do so. Here’s a 70-second video,

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3 thoughts on “When Work Ethic Goes Too Far: An Important Story Hidden in the Mayfield Candle Factory Disaster

  1. Attention-holding summary of what happened at the candle factory in Kentucky. Like you, i suspect that employees did ask to go home and some managers did warn them that they could be written up or risk not getting more hours if they left. This is a clear violation of workplace safety rules, and the company needs, again, to be written up, and fined, again, for its failure to follow laws and regulations.

  2. The insanity of money-driven managers overlooking and ignoring workers safety is one of the primary factors in the workplace safety problem.
    To all too many, money talk$ much louder than any other incentive.
    And, unfortunately, all too often, the proof is in the results.

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