This month’s InBox features letters posted by QP readers at www.qualityprogress.com. To offer your own take, click "Add Comments" on any article’s page.

Mum’s the word

The article provided by Randall Goodden ("Better Safe Than Sorry," May 2008, p. 28) missed a key reason for safety mishaps. The following true story that happened at one of my previous companies is a good way to describe it.

An engineer wrote a report that contained a warning that a new design could be dangerous if the customer failed to follow certain procedures. It was obvious to all that the old design did not have this drawback. Nevertheless, the company chose to market the product using the new design.

Several years later, the legal department gave a presentation on the dangers of what employees say in documents. They used the engineer’s warning as an example of what not to say. A scientist in the audience suggested that the engineer was just doing his job by issuing a warning when a warning was appropriate.

He further suggested that the multimillion-dollar liability suit was the fault of whoever chose to ignore the engineer’s warning. The suggestion was definitely not appreciated by the members of upper management who were present, and the scientist no longer works there.

When upper management encourages a corporate culture like that, other hazardous products will be produced because people will learn that speaking up is bad for their career.

Emil Friedman
Danbury, CT

Be specific

A very good article by Randall Goodden. There are additional steps that can be taken, however, with the focus on complete communication of design, engineering and other specifications with the offshore subcontractor.

Offshore contracted suppliers are to be controlled using a set of specifications, particularly manufacturing process steps. The subcontractors and suppliers of the controlled off-shore primary contractor might not be controlled, however, and that is the source of potential problems.

For example, lack of control of subcontractors was the cause of lead paint being used where it should not have been (subcontractors were switched mid-production run) in at least one example as reported in the media.

In addition to the design steps mentioned in this article, every step of the manufacturing process needs to be documented in detail for the offshore contractors. The entire flow of documentation needs to be reviewed to ensure all requirements are communicated and flow not only to the prime contractor, but also to the subcontractors and suppliers.

Larry G. DeVries
Eden Prairie, MN

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