let’s discuss egregious safety violations at work

You’d think safety would be top of mind for employers, but some are willing to tolerate egregious safety issues in order to keep people working. Some examples that have been shared by readers in the past:

  “At a call center job, there was a tornado that touched down just a few miles away and they refused to let people off the phones to seek shelter. Another time someone pulled the fire alarm and no one moved. They just kept on taking calls because they would get in trouble or face getting fired if they did not take phone calls. A third time people were getting sick. There was an odd smell throughout the center. People were allowed to leave but they did get docked a half point. Someone called the fire department because it could have been a gas leak. Instead of evacuating, they kept everyone working and the fire department walked around with some sort of meter thing. We never found out what it was.”

•  “I worked on the top floor of a seven-story building and looked out one day to see fire engines everywhere. I asked the office manager if he knew what was going on. Apparently, there was a bomb threat but our office did not want to evacuate!”

•  “I once couldn’t get an employee to take shelter on his own during an active shooter situation. He just wanted to stay at his desk and play on his computer. (!!!) I had to get help from a male coworker to physically drag him into shelter.”

What egregious safety violations have you seen in your own workplaces? Let’s discuss in the comments.

{ 1,179 comments… read them below }

  1. Dee906*

    Very interested to see the outcomes of this. Am a Division EHS Manager at a large manufacturing company. Remember everyone, anyone can call OSHA.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I’m the one who wrote about the call center. I know after the fire alarm incident they created a “safety committee” I only know one person who was on this committee. They never did anything. There was never any drills or instructions, or anything added to training. And with the amount of turnover at that place there was constantly new people.
      The call center closed in 2017 after it got bought out from another company who didn’t want to pay the wages that we had.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Back in an earlier life I was an hourly grunt for Walmart. The store had a safety committee, because that was a requirement. The assistant manager I directly reported to asked me to join it. I didn’t want to, but he asked me as a personal favor. In spite of being a Walmart assistant manager, he was a total mensch, so I agreed. I tried to take it seriously. The store’s fire extinguishers were out of compliance, so I found a local fire extinguisher company and got a quote. I took it to the store manager, who was a walking example of the Peter Principle. She told me it wasn’t in the budget, and to stop wasting her time and get back to work. So after that I regarded the safety committee meetings as a mid-day break. About a year later the fire extinguishers were in fact serviced, though not by the outfit I had found. I suspect word trickled up above her head and she was told she had to do this.

      2. a fever you can't sweat out*

        i too once worked for an office who had call metrics (drink water because that will make you have to pee and take time away from the phones!) and i literally had to drag people out kicking and screaming during fire alarms.

        1. Bananapants Circus with Dysfunctional Monkeys*

          I worked in a call centre that was a hellhole in a lot of ways, but they had a really good fire alarm evacuation policy: apologise, hang up (with no penalty, even if the customer complained, and they did) and get out. The alarm was audible on the call which helped.

          They also had training on evacuation chairs for our wheelchair users AND did the training WITH them so they knew who’d be taking them out (we were second floor) so they were comfortable with the procedure and weren’t being left behind to be rescued, which is apparently policy in some places!

          1. CozyDetective*

            I worked at a community college on the third floor, and our policy for wheelchair users was to leave them in the stairwell to wait for evacuation in the case of an emergency (which included fire, hurricanes, tornadoes and even active shooter situations if barricades didn’t work). We even did drills where we practiced leaving them behind. It was despicable.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Eff that. Wheelchair users, I’ll wait with you. I don’t care what HR says.

              I do think about this because we’re on an upper floor. No chair users in my office but that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t have visitors who might be.

            2. Momma Bear*

              I once worked for a company where the evacuation in case of an airborne concern included walking more than a mile to a safe zone. One of my coworkers took that in, thought about her mobility issues, and said to leave her behind. I wouldn’t be able to do that – I’d drag her along on an office rolly chair first, but it was reallllly sobering to realize the plan didn’t include 100% survival.

            3. Dawbs*

              this is actually standard practice for wheelchair “evacuation plans”

              it’s infuriating.
              is ableism.
              it’s legally allowed.
              and people mostly don’t notice and dint care.

              there ARE devices for this (they’re expensive and bit required. I helped a previous employer get a grant)
              there are speed to be “shelter areas” (usually stairwells) and it’s a shit system.

              i hope every person who reads this thread who works in a multi-floor building goes to work tomorrow and asks what the plan is. (And ‘we don’t currently have disabled employees’should make you want to burn down the building).
              Ask for a copy of the disabled evacuation plan.

              1. GythaOgden*

                In the UK there’s something called a PEEP (Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan) where they work with the person involved (so they know the person’s individual capabilities). It’s not easy for anyone but if you are disabled or have limited mobility, you should be planning for it directly with your employer ahead of time. Individuality is at the heart of disability issues; if you’re like me and at least basically mobile, just lame, I might need assistance if the fire is spreading rapidly because I can’t run, but if it’s contained, I can exit normally. If you’re in a wheelchair you’re not necessarily stuck, but it’s going to be a challenge and thus people need to be trained by the employer and have the right equipment fitted.


                This is my local fire service advice. The section marked Refuges is an offshoot of the compartmentalisation plan for most buildings in that sheltering within a building is sometimes better than actually getting out. Fire compartments are designed so that people who can’t necessarily get to an exit cleanly are safe from the spread of fire until they can be rescued from a different direction. Thus some procedures do sound counter-intuitive but they’ve been developed by people like my colleague Yazz, who is a former firefighter and went into drafting legislation and building assurance.

                All companies should have a Yazz <3.

              2. Been There*

                I just started a new job and they explained that we have to leave people with mobility issues in this one specific hallway that is fireproof (something in the design of the building). Firefighters know they have to check those hallways first.
                We don’t train for other situations, such as hurricanes or active shooters (not in the US, not in a hurricane country).

            4. Oska*

              My previous job didn’t care much about safety, but our one wheelchair-using employee was technically covered: A team of employees were responsible for carrying him out in case of fire. (A few years later, a new safety warden managed to push through getting a proper device for carrying people in wheelchairs down stairs.) However, this procedure obviously involved some risk – someone could trip and fall, causing a chain reaction of havoc. So during known fire drills, we just… didn’t practice that part, to avoid the risk. The poor guy was left alone in the office every time. :-\

          2. The Starsong Princess*

            Shout out to my company’s CEO! If the fire alarm went off, he would go around and yell at anyone who wasn’t evacuating quickly enough, including people on the phone. He was a “not on my watch” kind of guy.

            1. Ace in the Hole*

              Failing to evacuate when the alarm goes off is cause for disciplinary action at my workplace. You will get written up if you’re not at the muster point by the time we do the headcount unless you have a very, very good reason. I’ve only ever seen that happen once, because usually everyone responds immediately.

              I think it helps that in our line of work we DO have emergencies like fires and hazmat spills often enough that people are aware it’s a real, serious danger.

          3. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

            There really aren’t a lot of good options for evacuating wheelchair users from, say, the 19th floor. The stairwells in taller buildings are usually fire-resistant, and it may be the least bad option for them to wait for trained rescuers.

              1. Anonomatopoeia*

                We used to be instructed to tell a wheelchair user where a safe fire door was, and then also on our own evacuation find a firefighter and TELL THEM, so I kind of think that’s a useful reason to leave, so the firefighter can directly go do rescuing rather than checking each of the 9 tall staircases on their own. Now we’re told to just leave immediately and everyone else is going to fend for themselves, an approach I hate both because it loses this and because also in my context there are probably between 25 and 200 people wearing noise-cancelling headphones whom I would like to help not be a distressing statistic.

              2. Ace in the Hole*

                Staying with them means now there are two people who need rescue. If something goes wrong either (or both) of you may be incapacitated or injured. So whatever resources and personnel would have gone to rescuing the chair user now have to be split between two people, one of whom could have left under their own power.

                I get why it feels horrible and seems cruel, but it’s not an arbitrary selfish policy.

          4. a good mouse*

            That’s really great! It’s also made me plan to ask our security lead what we would do if we had a wheelchair user (5th floor) during a drill. I don’t think it’s ever been covered. We don’t have any regular employees in wheelchairs but you never know when a visitor is on site and an emergency happens.

          5. Merrily we roll along*

            I am a wheelchair user, and throughout my working life (retired now), I’ve done my darndest to never work above the ground floor. I haven’t always been successful. There is literally no good option – “shelter in place” is terrifying, and relying on co-workers to carry you down stairs is also terrifying.

            I’ve evacuated from hotels twice for fire alarms. One hotel had a system that automatically shut down the elevators when the fire alarm went off, but there was a slight delay, and I *levitated* out of bed, got to the elevator just before the doors slammed shut, and made it down to the lobby before they shut to power down. Maybe not my brightest decision ever (I didn’t even think about being stuck in the elevator during a fire), but it worked out. That fire alarm was set off by drunken convention goers discharging a fire extinguish. The other one was a kitchen fire in the middle of the night, and management didn’t really seem to care, so I packed and checked out at 4 in the morning and went hunting for another hotel.

            I’m sure that there are bazillions of co-workers/passersby/random people who are happy to help in an emergency, but I always assume that I’m going to need to get myself out of whatever emergency situation I might find myself in – I figure that way I’ll never be disappointed. Don’t even start me on airplanes.

            1. Tinkerbell*

              My cousin has been in a wheelchair since a car accident when she was in college. She works in the theater, which often means lots of areas not designed for wheelchair users and historic older buildings which never had to retrofit to ADA standards. In her case, she’s a very small woman (I’d be shocked if she was over a hundred pounds) and the one time I remember her telling me about where there was an emergency, she got a piggy back ride from a much sturdier friend to the evacuation area while a second friend schlepped her chair. That shouldn’t have to be the standard, and “well we’ve never had a wheelchair user working for us before” is not an excuse :-\

          6. J. Quadrifrons*

            That was the policy at the public library where I worked – we routinely evacuated to the basement for high winds or tornado warnings, and the elevator was in a two-storey foyer that was 3/4 glass. The only option we had for people who couldn’t manage stairs was to leave them in the staff hallway. A public library.

      3. 1-800-BrownCow*

        I worked at a MANUFACTURING facility (read: flammable materials EVERYWHERE) where we’d get in trouble for leaving the building if the fire alarms went off, unless you saw flames. During the 2 years I worked there, the fire alarms went off about 3 times. I was the one who let the fire department into the building the one time and the fire chief was pissed that no one had evacuated. I worked on 2nd, so basically just us shop floor employees. Sadly, the company owners took advantage of the fact that a high majority of shop floor employees were new to the country and many didn’t speak English and needed steady work. Do what your told and don’t speak against management and you got to keep your job.

        Another time at that same manufacturing facility, a machine operator found me and pointed a piece of equipment was on fire. Turns out there was cardboard sitting on the machine and some wire connected to some auxiliary equipment had shorted, sparked and caught the cardboard on fire. The flames were about 1-2 feet high. I grabbed a nearby fire extinguisher and put the fire out. The next day I came to work to find out I had been written up because using the fire extinguisher meant the machine was not operable until it was cleaned up. We had zero safety training there so I asked them what they wanted me to do instead and I was told to blow it out with my mouth next time. I’m normally a quiet, non-confrontational person (especially when I was young), but I got angry and yelled that it wasn’t some damn birthday candle and that if the company wasn’t going to provide any safety training to employees (because sitting through safety training meant people weren’t working) then you can’t yell at us for doing what we thought was the best thing to do in that situation. I told them next time I’d just walk away and let the building burn down. They shut up and I was no longer written up for using a fire extinguisher to put out a fire.

        1. OMG, Bees!*

          Well all of that is horrible. Just a new Triangle Shirtwaste Factory waiting to happen.

          The first part of no one leaving reminded me of an old apartment building almost 20 years ago where the fire alarms went off accidentally so often I eventually stopped listening to them and evacuating when it happened. Tho a huge reason for that was I lived on the 15th floor and once one enters the emergency stairwell, you cannot reenter a floor, only walk all the way to the ground floor. Good for security, I guess (although floors were not restricted via elevator…). And this is a 30 story building! Would have been even worse higher up

          1. TRC*

            The fire alarm goes off in my building all the time. The city has a live list of 911 fire dispatch calls and so we always check that right away. If it says “Auto Fire Alarm” and only one or two fire vehicles are being dispatched, we don’t even bother to do anything. If several trucks have been dispatched, that’s a totally different issue.

            What was horrifying was there was an actual fire in a unit 3 floors below ours and one unit over. Apparently there were 15 or 20 vehicles out there. But our bedrooms don’t face the street and we never heard them. In fact, the guy in the apartment right above the one with the fire didn’t know anything about it until the fire department knocked on his door to see if there was any damage. He’d slept through it too. So quite a mob of us were asking management a lot of extremely hard questions about why the building alarm didn’t go off. The stories they made up to explain why were epic.

            All to cover that the fire control box for the building was not operating properly. They have spent the last year and a half replacing the panel and tracking down faults/errors in everything that reports to it. There were a lot of them. Installing the new panel probably didn’t take long. Finding all the glitches took months.

            1. OMG, Bees!*

              Sounds like from the end of your comment the building management finally fixed the fire control issues also. Took months in my case, but management did eventually fix the false fire alarm also, so I learned to trust it again

        2. Mouse named Anon*

          Thats surprising. I worked someone where, that I was in charge of gathering data of fire drills ran by our various buildings on campus. If people did’nt evac fast enough or they didn’t leave the building the city would make us re-do the fire drills.

        3. goddessoftransitory*

          WTAF? Double fried and dipped in hearty THE HELL sauce???

          How on earth these people aren’t on trial for mass murder is a miracle of sorts.

    2. not nice, don't care*

      And then OSHA ignores the call, or responds but sides with management, and there is retaliation against the complainant because somehow word always gets out.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        OSHA does not ignore calls. OSHA takes workplace safety very very seriously. OSHA will write up violations as fast as their agents can see them.

        OSHA needing more funding and people is definitely an issue but that’s not relevant to how they operate. Working in a sector where OSHA can come on in anytime and check things out, it’s very clear how seriously they take safety.

        1. wlasscar*

          I’ve worked in pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing for the last 14 years and have NEVER had an OSHA inspection or anything of the sort. Admittedly, it might just be because I’m in the Southeast.

          1. Dee906*

            OSHA is severely underfunded and has woefully few inspectors compared to the number of workplaces. They try with NEPs and focused inspections to keep folks safe but unfortunately are not provided the resources to do so effectively.

            1. Chirpy*

              It was just in the news that my state has 1/10th the OSHA inspectors that it needs.

        2. Lenora Rose*

          I’d argue the whole point of underfunding OSHA Is to get people feeling cynical about them; they blame the department with its lack of inspectors over the people who have withheld the needed numbers and power to do the job, then those people agree when they say “obviously public funding doesn’t work”, which allows the people funding it to slash EVEN MORE funding.

          “not nice, don’t care” and others with that attitude are doing the dirty work for the people holding the purse strings. Which might not be nice of me to say, but, well…

      2. Angstrom*

        I had a good experience working with MIOSHA. If you asked for an inspection, you wold not be fined if the infractions were corrected in a timely manner. So we asked them to come in and do a safety assessment. They found a few things that were out of code, we fixed them, and that was that.

        1. Former EHSS "lead" aka "Ignored"*

          Most states don’t have a robust workplace safety agency. I’m glad yours is otherwise.

          1. Dee906*

            Correct, and the Feds lack the funding and support to be as effective as state plan states.

      3. SuperNova*

        OSHA has to prioritize inspections because there are not enough inspectors to everything they should be doing.
        1. Imminent danger situations
        2. Death or severe injury or illness
        3. Employee complaints
        4. Referrals
        5. Targeted inspections
        6. Follow-up inspections
        Inspectors do not have time to just show up for a surprise inspection at the office down the street which has never shown to be a problem. Employee complaints must be further prioritized by the seriousness of the risk, the likelihood of it resulting in injury, and the severity of the consequences if it does happen.

    3. Dinwar*

      OSHA and MSHA (Mine Safety and Health Administration), as well as numerous federal, state, and local authorities, which should be outlined in your onboarding and in the safety plan(s) that you sign prior to work.

      I’m a safety officer on a Superfund site, and I find egregious safety violations personally offensive. The world we live in is dangerous enough–if you have a NIOSH handbook, a good way to give yourself nightmares is to identify the contents of train cars as they go by. We don’t need to cause additional problems for ourselves.

      It’s also telling that in every business I’ve seen, safety violations go hand in hand with production issues. Basic safety makes the work MORE productive, not less. Someone too stupid to follow basic safety procedures is also going to be too stupid to follow proper production procedures, documentation procedures, accounting procedures, etc.

      1. Sharpie*

        Safety officer on a Superfund site? That sounds… Interesting and ominous all at once. Well, the reason for a site being a Superfund site is never good, let’s be honest.

        1. Dinwar*

          Eh, most of it’s boring (which I prefer). As long as you follow the safety protocols it’s fine, just the same thing over and over and over again. The ideal is that everything is meticulously planned, carefully and thoughtfully executed, and thoroughly documented. And honestly most of the stuff on the National Priority List isn’t the showy “kill you this minute” contamination (though some is). A huge amount of it is BTEX, PCE/TCE/DCE, and the like–stuff that won’t kill you for 30 years, then when you retire you’re dead in 18-24 months. Which is good and bad. On the plus side, you’re unlikely to die from exposure. On the minus side, this causes a certain percent of people to conclude that it’s safe. I have unfortunately lost some good coworkers that way.

          Other than Consultant Syndrome, the biggest safety issues I’ve had were from other people working in the same area. You can have all the policies and procedures you want, but if someone isn’t subject to your protocols there’s not much you can do except watch and be ready to act.

            1. lina*

              Not a verified answer, but a guess: consultants who assume they know best, and who are assumed to know best by The Boss because of how much they cost, and override the actual experts on site who’ve been doing this for thirty years.

              1. Dinwar*

                Honestly, mostly I’ve seen the opposite. Folks in my industry are MUCH more conservative when it comes to safety than our clients are, and a lot of what we do is tell them “You can’t do this, if you do you’ll go to jail and/or people will die.” It’s part of the contracts in many cases–our literal job is to keep people from doing egregiously stupid things. We DO in fact know more, we’ve seen what can happen, and you’re paying us to use that knowledge to protect you from yourself.

                In the industry…yeah, this happens. One of the surprising things I recently learned was that people with 10+ years of experience accounted for fully half the fatalities in mines last year. The reason is exactly what you say: They think “I’ve done it this way for years, no stupid paper-pusher will tell ME how to work!” Then they light a cigarette in an atmosphere with 24% O2 and their beard explodes (yes, this happened, and the safety officer specifically called me out as someone at risk of this happening to me). It’s one reason I’m looking to get out of fieldwork.

            2. Dinwar*

              It’s when you pick up a bunch of low-level crap on various jobsites and your body starts to shut down. It’s never enough for an individual incident to trigger any alarms on your HAZWOPER physical, but it starts to kill you none the less. It can happen fairly quickly–I’ve seen cases happen in as short a time as 6 months–or it can take years–people frequently die 6-12 months after they retire in my industry.

              Consultant Syndrome isn’t a technical name for it. Mostly there isn’t one. But it’s what I’ve always heard it called. In at least one case the official diagnosis was “walking pneumonia”, but the doctor admitted that it’s because he didn’t have anything else he could call it on the form.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          If you could, could Allison interview you? This is such an important part of our infrastructure and I know (and would bet most people) next to nothing about it!

      2. RC*

        I was at a job for about 2 years before I learned it was physically on a Superfund site (the Bay Area has several of them, turns out; Silicon Valley manufacturers apparently used to think it was totally fine to just … dump waste everywhere??)

      3. Cari*

        That’s awesome – I’d love to hear more about your experiences with that!

        And I completely agree with you about the direct link between safety and productivity issue. There’s a fantastic description of Paul O’Neill’s take over and time at Alcoa and the impact of safety culture in Charles Duhigg’s “Habit” that conveys it really well. (Plus, Duhigg starts it with investors’ bolting to sell in at his introduction being about safety – a response implicit and explicit in a lot of the stories here!)

        1. Dinwar*

          Like I said, 99.9% of it is “Yup, another well. The Conductivity isn’t behaving, so I need to take two more readings.” Or trying to get a hand auger through stuff. Crushed shells are the worst, though being 20-somethings we turned that into a race. Routine, mundane stuff that’s incredibly boring–and after moving up the chain-o’-command, I now see that’s because there’s a dozen or more people working hard to keep you alive.

          The 0.1% of the time gets interesting. But of course that’s the stuff covered by the NDAs. :D

      4. Hungry Magpie*

        Howdy, fellow contaminated site person! I was a Contaminated Site Risk Assessor for the better part of a decade, though not in the US. Gotta love the stories we get from working on sites…(e.g. “you dumped WHAT WHERE?!” or “name that goo”).

        1. Dinwar*

          That’s the truth. :D That, and the “What’s in the unmarked drum we just found?” game…. I freaking hate underground storage tanks.

        2. Ace in the Hole*

          I’m a bit downstream from you folks, working at a hazardous waste facility… “name that goo” and “you have WHAT in your shed?” are always fun times.

        3. Perfectly normal-size space bird*

          So my spouse’s parent was the head of Environmental Health & Safety for a well-known oil company in an extra-damp state known for having lots of issues with oil spills. Part of this parent’s job included things like personally taking a tank of hazardous waste by-product and spraying it around some dedicated locations to dispose of it. Not like, putting it in containers so it won’t contaminate anything, this procedure was to specifically spray it around some wilderness so it would theoretically safely break down in the environment. This was the 60s and 70s. None of these substances could safely break down in the environment. The fact that sometimes this happened in the wee hours or late at night is probably a good clue that they knew this.

          And that is the story of why I have no interest in swamp tours.

    4. ShineSpark*

      Much younger me worked in a mini-supermarket. The stockroom had high shelves, and there was only one stepladder provided. It was the kind you folded out into and upside down V shape, then snapped two braces into place to keep it steady. Only one of the braces was badly bent, and the only way we had to keep the ladder from buckling under the weight was jamming a big screwdriver through the frame above the broken brace.

      The store manager insisted we didn’t have budget to cover a new ladder. I was scared of heights anyway, but left as soon as I could.

      1. Someguy*

        As we got better at inspecting and throwing away suspect ladders (and lifting straps, and and and), we then realized we also had to destroy them, else they would be rescued for personal use by employees at home.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        I’d bet they didn’t have “the budget” to cover workman’s comp, either. Geez.

    5. Lifelong student*

      I was told many years ago that OSHA has no authority over office workplaces. Was I told a falsehood?

      1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        Not only does it apply to office workplaces, but office workplaces are required to post those big OSHA posters somewhere in the office.

          1. Teapot Connoisseuse*

            Was there also a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’?

            1. Sharp-dressed Boston Terrier*

              No, because that’s on the door of a disused lavatory.

      2. Seven If You Count Bad John*

        Yes. OSHA covers all workplaces. Just because you’re a receptionist or an accountant doesn’t mean they can scrimp on trip hazards, fire safety, mold problems, air conditioning, ventilation, etc.

        1. Manda*

          OSHA doesn’t cover ALL workplaces. If you’re in a government run office or your industry is highly regulated by a different federal agency, then they can’t get involved. :)

          1. Constance Lloyd*

            OSHA does monitor and inspect federal offices. I work at a federal agency and my duties include but are not limited to recording and reporting workplace injuries to OSHA. Certain injury criteria automatically trigger a full investigation, and if somebody so much as gets a paper cut and goes to the nurse’s station for a bandaid, we record that and provide them with a dense packet of their rights as an injured worker.

          2. Former EHSS "lead" aka "Ignored"*

            It doesn’t cover, like, a small family farm. And yes some workplaces are also covered by other agencies. But OSHA does cover nearly every workplace, as far as my OSHA certification course taught me. Perhaps clarification can be provided along with the winning stories.

          3. Nonanon*

            Bingo! My partner is employed by municipal government, and every time I joke about him committing an OSHA violation (he has not to my knowledge ever ACTUALLY committed a violation, it’s just one of the weird in jokes we have), he just tells me that OSHA has no power over him.

          4. It Might Be Me*

            OSHA does apply. From the website addressing the US military. If it’s uniquely military it doesn’t apply (say a tank).

            “On the other hand, the Department of Defense employs 700,000 civilian personnel, many of which work on equipment, systems, and operations that are ‘not military unique.’

            “OSHA does apply to those employees under those conditions. For example, OSHA can inspect U.S. Coast Guard facilities where civilians do office work without advanced notice, just as they can with a private-sector workplace.”

      3. Dinwar*

        There’s not a lot of ways to get OSHA involved in office work, but there are a few. Electrical, fire, noise, and ergonomics, for example. And they’re expanding their interpretations of some things. I found it rather grimly amusing (occupational hazard; field geologists seem to develop a rather twisted sense of humor) that for several years the office workers had the highest number of incidents in the company I work at–we’re digging up cancer-causing chemicals, or munitions, or sampling acids that dissolve glass (that was a fun day) and we’re fine. Johnny McOfficeworker, on the other hand, fails to pick up his feet and breaks a wrist walking to the copier. OSHA’s not as amused, however.

        That said, as others have said, check on that. There are other agencies that may have jurisdiction. Office workers associated with mines are covered by MSHA instead of OSHA, for example–they’re still miners. Fire departments and other emergency responders also fall under different jurisdictions, because there’s simply no way to do those jobs and comply with OSHA requirements. And even if you are under OSHA’s jurisdiction you’re unlikely to be audited unless there’s something just egregiously wrong. They properly focus their efforts on the areas with the highest risks, and offices are MUCH safer than jobsites (which causes the injury rates we see; complacency kills).

        1. Elizabeth West*

          We had our OSHA guy come to OldExjob and give me, the front desk, safety training. Mostly it was dealing with potential threats — our front door was open and anyone could just walk in. And I sat with my back to the door. It drove me nuts because I do not like to sit with my back to the door. I’m also one of those people who looks for exits and anything I can use as a weapon when I’m in a store or whatever.

          This freaked our OSHA guy out a little bit, lol. I was like oh, I can hit Threat with my stapler, and here’s a giant heavy sample I can throw at him, etc. When he was done with my training, he told my boss, “I’m more worried about the bad guys than I am about her!”

        2. Recovering EHS Director*

          Geologists REPRESENT. (I’m not a geologist but I worked in the remediation field for many, many years and really appreciated the skill set geologists bring to the job.)

          Not surprising at all that office workers had more accidents – on our job sites we would typically have things like morning tailgate safety meetings, safety plans, inspections, etc., and we’re expecting something goofy to happen, where as office workers… don’t. It just feels like a safe environment, and what could possibly go wrong when you’re just typing and in meetings all day?

          All kidding aside, I feel like office workers and office environments get neglected when safety is discussed; bringing more awareness to the potential for injury would help bring incident rates down.

        3. goddessoftransitory*

          Johnny McOfficeworker, on the other hand, fails to pick up his feet and breaks a wrist walking to the copier. OSHA’s not as amused, however.

          This reminds me of an old safety short Rifftrax did about office safety–it was made in the days when actually killing a stunt guy seemed to be deemed “unfortunate, but…” I couldn’t believe the death field that the typical office apparently presented–this was also when the average piece of office equipment weighed 900 pounds and was made of iron corners and exposed wiring, so you were lucky to live through the day!

        4. Part time lab tech*

          There was a norovirus outbreak. In the hospital microbiology laboratory I was working in, the only person to get sick was the single admin staff who didn’t handle stinky samples. My theory is that although lab staff had good asceptic technique between samples and while entering and exiting the lab area, they were not 100% careful within the lab area and probably touched a door handle or two with contaminated hands. The admin didn’t handle the samples and I suspect didn’t have as good entering and leaving hand washing protocols.

        5. Anax*

          Late, but also: If there’s danger related to your membership in a protected class, including disability, also report to your state civil rights department or federal EEOC. The sooner the better, because underfunding means these agencies have a huge backlog.

          Honestly, I’m just waiting for someone to die because of California’s current return-to-office policy for state workers. It’s being enforced with ‘no exceptions’ unless you have sick leave to burn – and the PTO allowance isn’t generous, nor is there any guarantee that using it won’t be held against you.

          In the couple months I was working in-office, I was required to go in during a pretty severe storm, with downed trees/power lines and major highways closed due to flooding. No word on how they’re going to handle wildfire season or other natural disasters.

          And, well. That doesn’t get into how they’re handling disability, which is… bad.

          I had to quit because of it – hot environments make me faint, and I’m terribly prone to heat-related illness. With no accommodation – and I tried HARD to get one – it was just a matter of time before I either got heatstroke or fell and hit my head. (Among other things. It was bad.)

          I’ve heard a lot of other stories that stick with me – like the guy who has epilepsy, had his first seizure in years, and had his license pulled by the DMV for six months. With no flexibility in RTO and no public transit, he was looking at losing his job and his housing.

          Or the guy caring for an immunocompromised child – when CalOSHA told people with COVID-19 to come in as long as they’re asymptomatic.

          Or the woman recovering from double hip replacements, who could walk – but getting around a large office building was a lot more walking than recommended at this stage of recovery, and could have serious effects.

          There are systemic effects too – the number of disabled state workers has dropped by 40% since 2017, even before RTO was announced, and RTO has definitely made it worse.

          We’re fighting it, but… I’m very afraid someone is going to die or be horribly hurt before the regulatory bodies act, and that’s upsetting. We’ve got another six months minimum before the Civil Rights Department expects to finish its investigation, and if they choose not to act, then waiting however long it takes the court system.

          It’s the drum I keep banging because it’s been a big part of my life for the last few months, but… yeah.

          (And yes, if CRD doesn’t act, I’m planning to sue, and I have a lawyer on hand. Public shaming had some effect – I had a really nice article in the local paper which has brought some attention – but it hasn’t forced a policy change.)

    6. safety? what safety?*

      OSHA has like 17 people covering giant regions. My partner works in skilled construction. Before he was working union, the non union company he worked for didn’t want to pay for a lift. So when something needed untangling or fixing at the top of the crane, they just put a man in a skiff, and let him dangle in the wind while they raised him up to fix whatever needed fixing. Or tried to fix it, while swinging back and forth in the wind. OSHA did exactly nothing when they were called, because they are massively understaffed and completely overworked. And a lot of people at OSHA in this region used to work in the industry, and so are friends with many of the people they have to cite for violations.

      1. Dee906*

        Absolutely they are underfunded. And you have to have the right set of circumstances for there to be action. But it’s a good reminder to talk to your representatives and ask for change. State plan states are much more effective at regulating work place safety and health and updating standards to reflect current science. For the feds, it’s nearly impossible. That’s why we have standards from 1970s still trying to be enforced even if we know they aren’t enough.

  2. DeskApple*

    I was 16 working for my school district tech department and driving my mom’s mini van. For some reason, the school didn’t want to pay for anyone to transport laptops (back when they weighed around ten pounds each) to other campuses and told me to use my mom’s van to transport more than two TONS of recently purchased computer equipment in the van, stacked on all the seats, with nothing holding them down from sliding off and at me in the car or through the front window. I drove very slow nearly dragging the ground but I made it with no lost computers.

        1. Wendy Darling*

          I was gonna say imagine what happened if you braked suddenly but then I realized that with 2 tons of laptops in a mini van, any braking was going to be veeeeeeeery veeeeeeeery slooooooow.

          1. Reluctant Mezzo*

            Extra mass is not your friend when braking. (even in no gravity, extra mass is gonna move sometimes and it won’t be fun for anybody).

    1. Wolf*

      My chemistry teacher at school had to do that run to get gas bottles for the bunsen burners. In her own car, because the school wouldn’t pay to get them delivered.

  3. Tradd*

    People often seem to treat fire alarms as nothing. Years ago I worked at a place that had a fire alarm that turned out to be the real thing. There was an electrical fire in the building. There was SMOKE! My department was on the second floor and I was up fast with my purse in hand, but coworkers were still working away. I finally yelled at them to MOVE NOW! and that got them to leave.

    1. Cubicles & Chimeras*

      Our building had regular (yearly) fire alarm and drill tests. We were all told it is non-optional to participate, that the building was to be fully evacuated any time we heard the fire alarm go. (Building required it, Company agreed, multiple emails/chats/etc were sent about it.)

      You’d be surprised how many people I had to kick out of the building since I had the duty of clearing out my floor. Very much the types I anticipate that wouldn’t evacuate in a fire either.

      1. Ally McBeal*

        I worked on Wall Street for a while and was shocked by how many analysts stayed glued to their desks despite deafening sirens and obnoxious strobe lights during fire drills. Sales would’ve stayed too except it was hard to work through client calls with all the noise. At one point our building’s management asked for a volunteer from each floor to be fire marshal and I pretended I didn’t hear him ask because I was NOT going to be responsible for begging all those nerds (I say that lovingly) to leave their terminals.

        1. Eggo*

          I am Fire Marshal for my floor because it’s very funny to me. I’m terrified of an actual fire one day because no one listens when I try to force people out during drill! I’ve accepted that walking around with a printed map and asking people to point to the staircase was good enough.

          1. A Person*

            I’m outside the US, but fire wardens here are told not to *force* anyone to leave in an evacuation. Instead we tell them clearly that they need to evacuate and they’re in danger if they stay, and if they still refuse, just evacuate without them and advise the fire brigade when they arrive how many people remain in the building and where they are. In my org staff who refuse to evacuate may also face disciplinary action for failing to follow safety procedures.

          2. Whistler’s Daughter*

            I’m probably too late posting this for anyone to see, but…I was fire marshal for my floor, and having been in quite a few fires, I took the job seriously.

            I was issued a vest and whistle. One time during a drill I put in a vest and grabbed the whistle. Some stupid executive was slow -playing leaving her office, so I blew my whistle at her. She was so shocked that it worked great! She immediately followed my orders and got up and left.

            Give the whistle a try!!

            1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

              Whistles are unexpectedly useful in the workplace! I used a toy slide whistle to keep an internal conference on schedule.

      2. Thetidesturnforeveryone*

        When I was a floor fire officer, part of the job was going into every washroom to ferret out the people who would rather hide in a toilet stall than walk down stairs.

    2. WeirdChemist*

      At my old job, the building was undergoing massive renovations including to the fire alarm/suppression system. While they were working on it, the construction workers set off the alarm *constantly* including for testing that they wouldn’t bother to warn us about ahead of time. We would of course evacuate every time, and we’re required by policy to wait outside until the fire department cleared the building. The problem was that the construction company would tell the fire department that they were only doing testing, no need to come out, so we would have to call the fire department multiple times to be like “hey no really, we can’t go back in until you guys come out here” so we would be sitting outside for an hour or more. And sometimes this happened multiple times a week. And of course this happened in the middle of winter.

      So yeah, after a few weeks of this people were definitely in the bad habit of taking their time, gathering coats and keys and whatnot, finishing up what they were doing, etc before they evacuated. Good thing there was never an actual fire when I was there…

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        We might have worked at the same place!

        At some point we just stopped taking the alarms as seriously. It was very much a “boy who cried wolf” type response.

        It did get a little better after the fire department started fining the tenant, who in turn passed the bills on to the contractors.

        1. ECBT*

          The company had six floors, and the top floor was all the call centers – tech support, product support, customer service, all of it. One day we all smell smoke and the alarms go off. An announcement is made: floors 1-5, please evacuate the building. Floor 6, please remain on the phones.

          The customer I was talking to heard and asked, “where are you?”
          Me: 6th floor. But I can smell smoke.
          Customer: please go. You can call me later, if your building doesn’t burn down. And you should find a new job.

          The elevator had caught on fire. And I did find a new job.

          1. Momma Bear*

            There’s a reel going around FB/IG about someone whose manager said to stay on the phones during a fire alarm. I would think it would not be a good look to customers if they could hear the alarm that was being ignored. Glad your customer told you to just go.

            Old job had a lot of false alarms but we marched out and went to our meeting place *every* time. Once or twice it was a kitchen fire (we shared a building with a restaurant).

            Current job’s alarms and lights are so obnoxious you have no choice, which I’m sure is the point.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              The horns and strobes are indeed bright and loud on purpose. But it’s not to be annoying. It’s designed to give the best chance of alerting everybody – including those who are blind or deaf, and even when the building is filled with smoke.

        2. canuckian*

          I work at elementary schools and in one of them, if the day care/afterschool program uses the toaster in their room. It sets of the fire alarm. We have to evac and the fire department still has to come and clear us. And this was NOT burnt toast, just regular toast. They have been banned from making toast.

          We also discovered last year that if the prekindergarten rooms make toast, they also set off the fire alarms. So, they too, can no longer have toast.

          We have an actual kitchen with cafeteria service this year and *touch wood* nothing she’s done has caused the alarm to go off.

      2. Elitist Semicolon*

        This happened at one of my old lab jobs when facilities came around to update the smoke/vapor detectors and decided to install the new ones in the room with the two giant autoclaves. We had an entire week of the building-wide alarms going off at least once a day and we had to stand outside because we couldn’t go back in until the fire department cleared us.

      3. Turquoisecow*

        My office, a few years ago. The landlord sent an email saying they would be testing the fire alarm on Wednesday, so if the alarm went off that day, there was no need to evacuate. Great.

        The fire alarm went off on Tuesday. Lots of confusion – do we evacuate? They said there’d be a test. No but that’s tomorrow. Or is this the test? Finally we trooped down the stairs (thankfully only on the fourth floor and not higher) only to find someone from building management downstairs in the lobby with a fire inspector, annoyed, telling us all to go back upstairs, it was a test.

    3. MsM*

      We also had an actual (very minor) fire not too long ago. Someone had to go back in and tell the coffee shop to quit serving coffee.

    4. nonnynonny*

      I worked at a job where we so far behind schedule program management gave the build guys hearing protection for a planned fire drill. They didn’t want them to stop working for the 20 minutes the drill took. Everyone “joked” management would’ve made the same decision in the case of a real fire.

    5. CowWhisperer*

      Honestly, that happens even in places where safety drills are practiced a lot e. g, schools. When I taught HS, every unannounced fire drill involved me yelling “Get up, drop your stuff, and get out! Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s go!” repeatedly until my students moved.

      I think the reason we practice them is so that at least one person starts screaming directions and others follow.

      1. Tinkerbell*

        My daughter missed most of a day of school a few weeks ago because there was some sort of short in the fire alarm and NO ONE COULD TURN IT OFF. The principal came on the loudspeaker and said to ignore it, but of course it’s impossible to teach when the alarm is blaring, so most of the teachers took the kids outside and just held recess until it got fixed – but it kept NOT being fixed, so finally the parents all got an email that we could come pick the kids up early if we wanted.

    6. Managing While Female*

      I’d guess it’s probably a ‘boy who cried wolf’ kind of situation since people pull fire alarms so often as a ‘joke’.

      Still, where there’s smoke there’s fire, people! Or, at least, a very dangerous situation!

      1. La Triviata*

        Ages ago I worked in a building that had a kind of controversial tenant. They’d periodically get bomb threats that led to the entire building being evacuated to check for actual bombs (there were never any). Then there were a LOT of “bomb threats” that seemed to occur towards the middle of the day when the weather was good; it turned out people were phoning in fake threats in order to get a little extra time outside at lunch time.

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          The legal penalties for calling in bomb threats became much more severe in the US after 9/11, so I imagine they had to knock if off after that point. Similarly, the safety manager of my previous office (skyscraper in San Francisco) mentioned in a training that the building got fairly frequent bomb threats prior to 9/11 because one of the tenants had an employee who would call in a threat as a distraction whenever they were running late for work. (Don’t try this at home, kids!)

          1. TiffIf*

            When I was in middle school and high school calling in bomb threats was a way kids got out of exams. Last time I remember it happening was in 2000 when I was a sophomore.

            1. Bast*

              My mom mentioned that in the late 60s/early 70s this was a common tactic to get out of finals and exams, and said no one really got into much trouble for it — maybe a stern talking to and a “don’t do it again” kind of deal. Same with pulling the fire alarm. Common tactic to get out of exams. They HAD to evacuate because it was procedure, but everyone assumed it couldn’t be real.

              Definitely not what would happen now.

              1. Elitist Semicolon*

                At my uni in the 90s we could always tell when one of the large STEM weed-out classes had an upcoming exam because a fire alarm would go off in more than one dorm the same night.

              2. Insert Clever Name Here*

                Unfortunately the modern equivalent is calling in an active shooter threat against a school. It happens multiple times a year in my state and yeah…if they figure out who did it, there is a heck of a lot more than a “stern talking to” that happens.

              3. Dog momma*

                I worked in a nursing home where one of the demented patients for some reason kept pulling the fire alarm. We weren’t exactly downtown. The fire dept HAD to come out. After the third time, he told the administrator they were going to start fining them big time every time unless they got the resident under control. We had a big meeting with the chief in the hall on that floor and he was spitting nails. I’ll be darned…., it never happened again. lol

                1. Dog momma*

                  Would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when the fire chief met with the administrator in his office!

            2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              Happened repeatedly in spring at my high school–until one kid did it from a pay phone inside the building less than a month after the Oklahoma Federal Building bombing while a Ryder truck was parked in view of the front office. After he was frogmarched out of the building–law enforcement took the longest possible route through the building, passing as many classroom doors with windows as possible–there wasn’t another threat until after I graduated years later.

              1. goddessoftransitory*

                Wow, talk about NOT reading the room, kid. I would have made him walk on his hands.

            3. BrightLights*

              My high school was a mile down the road from another larger school. They would routinely call in bomb and gun threats to get out of exams and because of proximity we were evacuated too. It got old. 2005-2007.

            4. Orv*

              Happened at my high school, in the 1990s. A student called it in from the payphone in the hall directly opposite the administrative office, in full view of the office windows. They were, of course, caught immediately.

          2. EtTuBananas*

            When I was in elementary school, a local volunteer firefighter would call in bomb threats (from the pay phone by the Dairy Queen) because he was bored and wanted something to do.

          3. Hosta*

            After some local news about the penalties for calling false bomb threats, someone at a college my mother used to work at found a way to get classes canceled that was less likely to get their front door kicked down: they called in bedbugs.

            Honestly, people probably evacuated quicker when they heard it was bedbugs and not a bomb

        2. Good Enough For Government Work*

          Kate Adie is a legendary British war reporter who worked for the BBC during the height of the Troubles. She writes in her autobiography that Aunty Beeb was getting bomb threats on a roughly basis for years; unsurprisingly, people got cynical about it. So if a threat was called in and it was a nice sunny day, they’d evacuate; if it was p*ssing it down or they were tight on deadline they’d risk it for a biscuit (as it were). At one point some bright spark left some wires sticking out of a shoebox clearly marked ‘OIRISH BOM’ for the Bomb Squad to find (unsurprisingly, they weren’t impressed).

          Ah, the Seventies.

        3. goddessoftransitory*

          That happened back in my high school! Some group of kids decided calling in bomb threats during their lunch hours was a hilarious way of extending their breaks. This was long before 9/11 and school shootings, so they didn’t get into as much trouble as they should have.

      2. Ally McBeal*

        I once worked at a college, our offices were on the ground floor of a dorm and you would NOT believe how often fire alarms go off in dorms because someone forgot they left a pot on the stove.

        1. Le Sigh*

          Popcorn. Every friggin time. 10 stories of students would flood out because Jake and Josh could never remember how to not burn popcorn.

          1. Wendy Darling*

            Every semester at my college around finals time, someone would be up studying for exams sometime between 1am and 5am and would microwave themselves some cup noodle but forget to put the water in, and we’d all have to get out of bed and evacuate.

            Also the radiators in our dorms were unhinged overachievers to the point that we slept in shorts and tank tops and cracked the window even in the dead of winter so I have more than once stood outside in a parka over shorts and a tank top. Which sucks.

            1. Chirpy*

              One year, my dorm had both a pyromaniac (so, real but small fires, often like a burning shirt left on a tiled floor) and someone who pulled the alarm FOUR TIMES IN THREE DAYS (twice a night, every other night! ) in January. The university offered a reward, but by that point every single person in the dorm would have turned in the person just to get some sleep.

          2. Dog momma*

            that brings back more memories.. also worked in a ICU and we all lived on coffee. We had 2 pots going ALL THE TIME. well, there were times we got really busy admitting patients from the OR, or during a code…& the empty pot set off the fire alarm.. and we couldn’t necessarily evacuate. After about the 3rd or 4th time, the fire department got sick of coming out , we got yelled at etc. So the Chief of our service asked what we wanted as an Xmas present from them..usually it was food). One of the nurses got a catalog and picked out the biggest, needed six pot coffee maker that Bunn made. So at that time it cost about $400. Doc never blinked an eye & it was delivered post haste! We never burned A coffee pot again and ALWAYS had coffee!

        2. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

          I lived in a dorm where TWICE the honors’ floor set off the fire alarms by hitting the smoke detectors with water balloons. During finals week. In the middle of the night. The third fire alarm went off at 2 AM and I started putting on a coat and shoes. My roommate wanted to get fulled dressed. (I was fine in jammies. I’d STILL be fine in jammies.) As I went to the door, I said aloud, “There better be a fire or else someone’s dying.” I opened the door to smoke, told my roommate to throw on pants and shoes (socks optional), and to hurry to get out. Turns out someone on my floor left a lit candle (!) next to a Christmas tree (!!). Fortunately, there wasn’t much damage and we were let in really quickly, but it was an interesting night.

          1. Le Sigh*

            The alarms were triggered so often my freshman year that my dorm roommate and I started sleeping through fire alarms. Which is not good! But apparently I had become desensitized to the sound. I think they started fining people who were repeat offenders, which seemed to help.

            1. djx*

              There was a fire on the floor of my dormroom in college that destroyed another room and would have killed people who did not leave. And I saw a fire next door to my old apartment that scared me so much that I literally could not dial 911 – my hand was shaking so much I kept mistyping.

              That said, an alarm doesn’t make me want to just run. To me they mean “Pay attention and be ready to go.” Or “Leave if it’s not clear what’s up soon.” Alarms can be common.

          2. Siege*

            At my college in the UK – I never lived in the actual college building but heard about it – if you used hairspray it would set off the fire alarms because the smoke detectors were positioned in such a way that the mist hitting the sensor was common, and it read as smoke to the device.

            1. Good Enough For Government Work*

              Happened at my UK uni too. The wetrooms in our halls had a two-inch gap at the top of the doors… right next to the smoke alarm. If you took a shower and didn’t remember to plug the gap with a towel first, the steam would set off the sensor and off we’d go.

              The number of drunk students who forgot about this at 4am… well, it’s been 15+ years and I’m still just about capable of sleeping through a fire alarm.

              1. londonedit*

                Yep, when I was in halls in my first year we were forever having to trek downstairs at 4am and stand around in the cold because someone had come in from a night out and decided to make some toast or grill some sausages or whatever, and of course they’d burn things and set the alarms off. And of course being in central London they’d have to send the fire brigade out every time (I think it was two fire engines minimum each time – the Great Fire may have been in 1666 but we still take things very seriously!) It got to the point where we were threatened with having to pay for the callouts – I think one or two flats (corridors with bedrooms and a kitchen off them, really, but each had its own front door and was called a flat) did end up having to fork out.

          3. AngryOctopus*

            There was a small dorm fire on my campus my freshman year because some brain trust threw a pair of boxer shorts over the top of one of those halogen lamps (you know, the ones that get super super hot) to “set the mood”, and well, you can figure out what really happened.

            1. Wendy Darling*

              The cautionary tale we were all told my first year in dorms was about a kid who had an illicit toaster in his dorm room and set off the fire alarm burning toast, and then tried to hide the evidence by unplugging the toaster and throwing it under his bed.

              Which was where he also threw all his returned homework and papers.

              The toaster set his homework on fire, which set his bed on fire, which did so much smoke damage the entire room had to be gutted and this kid had to pay for it and then thank them very much for not expelling him.

              I do not know if this story is true, but it is incredibly plausible.

          4. Zephy*

            The building I lived in my freshman and sophomore years of college *allegedly* had an absurdly short burn time (3-5 minutes was the rumor). It was a 120-year-old building, primarily wood construction, so we all decided “five minutes to burn to the ground” sounded reasonable. There were a few late-night fire alarms every semester – I never found out if they were pranks or mistakes, but that building sure didn’t burn to cinders in the 20-40 minutes we spent standing around in our jammies at 2 AM waiting for the fire department to come clear it.

          5. Desk Dragon*

            My freshman year dorm had fireplaces in many of the rooms (oldest dorm on campus, dated from when that was the only heat source to get students through a New England winter, though they’d added radiators since). We also had a central vacuum, the kind where you plugged a big hose into access points in the wall. During finals period in December someone had a fire, put it out, and then used the central vac to clean the (not fully cooled) ashes out of their fireplace, setting the whole system on fire in the middle of the night and putting us all outside, in the snow, most of us in PJs. Fortunately, the fire department got it put out quickly and the damage was confined to the vacuum system.

            The next term, again finals, still winter weather, someone else had a fire and didn’t open the flue. I was about to get in the shower for that one, so I was out in the snow in nothing but a bathrobe and flip-flops.

            When students came back on campus the next school year, all the fireplaces had been bricked up.

          6. Momma Bear*

            At my college, someone burned part of a dorm with an illegal heat lamp in the closet for their illegal pet snake.

            Another time my friend was in the shower when the alarm went off. Poor woman stood out with the rest of us in her robe and a towel until we got the all clear.

        3. Crooked Bird*

          My particular dorm’s fire alarm could be set off by hairspray being used on a top bunk or otherwise too close to the smoke sensor. Notorious for it. The fire alarm was UNBELIEVABLY loud too, and included flashing lights, all of which is a great safety feature (you pretty much physically couldn’t stay inside under those conditions, at least I never met anyone who could stand it) but very frustrating when you know it was hairspray.

        4. InsufficentlySubordinate*

          Microwave pancakes burned at 1 am during Finals week. Later found nailed to the responsible person’s door with a knife.

          1. Teapot Connoisseuse*

            Should have done that with the food of the vegan who decided to break her long-held principles with some bacon at 2am one morning in my 3rd year.

        5. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I worked my way through college as a hockey referee. I would have been an OSHA nightmare–I slept on the boards during forfeits, would be run into numerous times during a shift (often at full speed by guys who were significantly heavier than I was, and referees don’t wear the body armor hockey players do), took my fair share of tumbles into the boards or hard to the ice, et cetera. Young and invulnerable.

          My 4th year (1st senior year), I stayed in the dorm closest to the ice haus. It seemed like a good idea the year previous when rooms were selected. However, it was a co-ed dorm with alternating single-sex floors (males on the 1st, females on the 2nd, males on the 3rd, etc). Fire alarms. Every. Single. Night. It was close to the edge of campus, so most of us would conject that alcohol and marijuana buzzes were involved. We’d joke about “someone making out with the fire alarm again.” It got to the point where I would wake up in the middle of the night, after 4-6 hours of hard skating and maybe 2 hours of sleep, and if there were no daylight coming through the windows, I just wrapped myself in my trench coat (I got into the habit of keeping my keys in it), slipped my feet into my boots (and tucked in the untied laces), and started walking out of the room towards the stairs. There was a specific Northern Red Oak tree I would lean against and half-sleep.

          Sure enough, every single night, there would be a fire alarm a few minutes later. On the weekends, there might be 2 or 3 of them. Sometime in February, the fire department had had enough and stopped coming; the RAs had to check the building and call the FD if flames were found.

          While it did my grades no favors, I can’t claim it’s why I had to go back for year 5, though.

          1. Zelda*

            About forty years before I was there, my college had a dorm burn down in the middle of the night. Nine students died. After that, the college Did. Not. Play. when it came to fire safety– tampering with the alarms or extinguishers could get a person expelled. The… “pranksters,” for lack of a better term, that you put up with would have been prosecuted into the Stone Age for that crap.

            Campus security still had their share of burnt-popcorn calls, but we students all got the message loud and clear that the consequences of any deliberate false alarms would be very, very not worth any concevable benefit.

      3. OMG, Bees!*

        I posted elsewhere, but I had this experience in an old apartment building with false fire alarms going several times a month. The main reason I stopped evacuating was because I lived on the 15th floor, and once you enter the stairwell to evacuate, you cannot reenter a floor, so only walk all the way down. Several times of hearing the fire alarm stop when I had reached the 6th floor made me not trust it.

      4. Turquoisecow*

        My college dorm often had people pull fire alarms in the middle of the night. As far as I know there was only a minor fire once.

        The damn things were so loud and annoying there was no way to sleep through them and we all went outside mostly to get away from the noise.

    7. 1-800-BrownCow*

      About 6 years ago my family and I were staying in a large hotel when the fire alarms went off. Only a couple dozen people evacuated, there were even hotel employees inside, some people were going through the breakfast buffet getting food with loud alarms going off around them. Fire department showed up and went inside for about 30 minutes or so. Eventually they came out and said it was safe to go inside. We later found out from a hotel employee that in one of the hotel suites that has the kitchenette, a guest left the stove on with food on it and it caught fire. Their room had filled with smoke, and the fire department put it out, but there was no major damage. It just shocked me that so few people, including hotel employees, had evacuated the building. Especially since the building’s main fire alarms were going off, not just a smoke detector in one guest room.

      1. Le Sigh*

        A store I worked at had design issues that caused it to flood occasionally. When this happened, we had to close and get everyone out. And without fail, there was always one person just shopping away — nevermind that they were standing in 1/2 – 2 inches of dirty water that was carrying in cigarette butts and leaves and trash from the parking lot. And they would ask, with a totally straight face, if they could keep shopping while we clean up.

        While I like to bargain hunt as much as the next person….

        1. Dawn*

          One night when I was working at a retail store, a bunch of us were asked to stay late because there were significant renovations going on; officially we were closed but with so many workers going in and out (and so many expensive products and fixtures) we had to have enough staff to keep an eye on everything throughout the store.

          Now, this was a full-on construction site. They were completely demolishing several fixtures and installing new ones in their place; the store was in shambles.

          Some dude off the street just walks in and starts browsing the merchandise literally in the middle of the construction. I went up and explained we were closed and we were in the store for the renovations, and he said, “It’s fine, I’m just browsing.” Again, standing in the middle of a construction site with no protective equipment.

          I got a lot less polite and my manager got mad at me for it later, but good heavens. Yes, I think you actually can talk to customers like that when polite isn’t budging them and they are standing around endangering themselves in your closed storefront.

          1. Le Sigh*

            “It’s fine, I’m just browsing.” People would say this to me, too! Sir, it is not fine! The store is closed! It is a liability for you to be here! Leave!

            1. Daubenton*

              You’ve both reminded me of what fun it was when the bookshop I worked in was completely refitted, including putting a new staircase in to give access to the basement. The doors couldn’t be locked but they were plastered with large notices saying we were closed and the interior was dark, empty of books and full of builders. But, still, they came. “Are you open?” “No.” “Can’t I have a look round?” “No!”

              Two weeks later when the doors were wide open, the lights were blazing, the beautiful new shelving was full of books, and eager booksellers were standing around with welcoming smiles they came back. “Are you closed?” “No.” “Can I have a look round?” “Yes!”

          2. Laser99*

            I don’t know if this counts but in two individual stores where I worked, they made you keep working through power outages. Since the computers weren’t operational, we had to write down the item code and a description, then make change out of the drawer. The individual sale money would be placed in a paper bag to deal with later.

            1. Le Sigh*

              This happened to me a few times — maybe it was just that the registers were down, and not the power? Either way, when that happened we had to break out the old fashioned credit card sliders. I don’t even know if you could find those anywhere these days.

              1. Windsorite*

                My latest credit card doesn’t have raised text, all the info is just printed. I guess they would have to handwrite a log instead in that case?

    8. Golden*

      This is true! I was part of a residential life peer group in undergrad, and the most common cases we oversaw included students being disciplined for not leaving the dorm during a fire drill.

    9. Antilles*

      I experienced this at my first company. We hadn’t had a fire drill in a couple years. My office-mate and I hear the alarm, glance at each other, figure it’s a drill, but still decide to at least go outside to the parking lot to comply with the drill.

      On our way out, one of the hallways to the side that we walked past was filled with smoke, which obviously caused us to hurry up on our way out. Turns out that it was indeed a fire caused by a contractor working on the building who forgot to unplug some of his equipment which was leaning against some drywall sheeting.

      I later learned that a guy in the office adjacent to the smoke-filled hallway not only couldn’t be bothered to walk the 15 feet outside, he was so unfazed by the alarm that he didn’t even bother to raise his head from his computer where the smoke would have been pretty much right in his line-of-sight.

    10. Cyborg Llama Horde*

      I used to work for an office space company, and we had people whose job it was to make sure each floor was cleared — and yes, we did have policies for what to do about the clients who refused to leave (the person assigned to that floor would make sure that they’d noticed the strobes and loud siren, and knew that it was a fire alarm, but thankfully there was no expectation that we’d argue with them, just make a list of where there were people who hadn’t evacuated). Sometimes those were legit fire drills, but sometimes they were caused by things like people microwaving something they shouldn’t have.

    11. HBJ*

      To my mind, it’s because we have bad fire alarm implementation. I’ve been subject to so many drills, so many prank alarm pulls, so many home smoke detectors going off because I cooked at too high of heat (didn’t burn anything, to be clear, just cooked at 450* or fried something or whatever). Never once been in a situation where a fire alarm/smoke detector went off for a legitimate evacuation/safety need. So they just don’t trigger a “this is a serious emergency” response in my brain.

      I remember in college, there was a fire alarm early on in the dorm. I was sitting in the common area watching TV. The fire alarm went off and a few minutes later a fireman came in and said, “the alarm!” “Yea?” “You need to get out!” “…Oh.”

      To be honest, I don’t know what I was thinking. It was a long time ago. I think it just never entered my brain as “oh, I need to evacuate, that’s a fire alarm.” I was just thinking something like, “that’s annoying. I wish someone would turn it off already.”

      1. LingNerd*

        The closest I’ve ever experienced to a real alarm was someone pulling it because they thought they saw smoke. It’s happened twice, two totally different situations. Otherwise just a lot of drills and burned popcorn. And one time, a spider trying to make its home inside the smoke detector at 5 in the morning

      2. JustaTech*

        The last time the fire alarm when off in my building we were in the middle of a very special session with an outside presenter that was Very Important.
        Not long after lunch the fire alarm starts going off. Obviously this wasn’t a planned drill, and it’s a lab building, so we actually evacuated. Once people started getting outside they looked up and there was a *huge* plume of smoke that looked like it was coming from our roof. So we evacuated a little bit farther away.
        Then we hear that it isn’t our building, it’s a truck on the highway above our building that has caught fire.
        And the truck was full of gas cylinders. So we then retreated to the underground part of the parking structure when there’s an incredible BOOM and we all feel the explosion reverberate though us.

        Eventually the building who’s garage we’re standing in lets us inside because it is very hot, and an hour or so after that the fire department says we can get our stuff (and cars) but we can’t stay in the building. Amazingly no one was hurt, and the exploding gas cylinders didn’t damage anything, but it was a heck of a day.
        (And the VP was mad that we didn’t get to finish with our Very Important presenter.)

    12. PDB*

      Not an office but I live in a 60+ unit apartment building where there are lots of false alarms and now they are ignored. God help us if there’s a real fire.

      1. Turquoisecow*

        My old apartment was set up horribly with the smoke detectors right outside the kitchen. The water wasn’t even boiling and the damn thing would go off. I tried putting a fan on the counter pointed at the alarm, to keep the heat away from it, but this only worked for a while and finally I just took the battery out.

        I’m pretty sure this was the cause of a fire in another building in the complex, though I never heard for sure. Building management reacted by putting fire alarms in the hallways (I assume another issue was that one unit’s alarm was not audible in another apartment, so fire could spread. Of course like the second day they were in, the alarm started going off in the afternoon. I opened my door, looked into the hall, saw no one evacuating and no sign of fire or smoke, and went back inside. A few minutes later the alarm stopped.

      2. Distracted Procrastinator*

        Our last apartment complex had about 100 units. Someone thought it was funny to pull the whole building alarms at 11 pm at night. No one evacuated. We were five minutes from a fire department but it would take 20 minutes for them to show up and clear the alarm. They saw the address and didn’t bother to hurry.

    13. Chauncy Gardener*

      When I was an auditor for one of the big firms, no one would ever leave when the fire alarms went off. Our clients had to come into the conference room and tell us in no uncertain terms to get the heck out of the building!

    14. dePizan*

      We moved back into our building recently after a major renovation. After we were back in, there still some final work going on and so constant construction noise and occasional fire alarms going off. One day, the fire alarm goes off. I was in the bathroom. No idea if it was another false one, I’m frantically trying to finish up and get out.

      And then I have a bad ankle and they shut the elevators down during an alarm, so trying to haul myself down the stairs without falling, with our security guy doing a sweep for stragglers at my back yelling at me to hurry. With the smell of smoke finally reaching us. We were the last ones out of the building. Luckily it was just some welding that had got to hot, and so while there was smoke, but no fire.

    15. sacados*

      Other alarms too!
      My second job (this was outside the US) … the office was just one big open floor plan with probably too many people crammed in, not to mention that due to the nature of the work almost everyone had two computer towers at their desk.
      Well one day, we get an email from the building operations saying “Over the past few weeks our CO2 counter has consistently showed CO2 levels higher than the standard indoor value. This coupled with high indoor temperatures creates a poor work environment. We ask that you take regular trips outside to take deep breaths.”
      I found out later there was a CO2 alarm that they had at some point just turned off because it was being very annoying by beeping all the time.

      1. Kristin*

        Wait, their response to elevated CO2 levels was to tell you all to “go outside and take deep breaths”, not opening a window or something? That is bonkers.

      2. beep beep*

        Um. CO or CO2? Concentrated levels of both aren’t incredible as I understand it, but one is far worse than the other.

      3. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

        A relative of mine works at an ice-skating rink near Buffalo NY where management made a similar decision with the carbon monoxide alarm, with the eventual result that a bunch of 8-year-old hockey players had to go to the hospital and the ownership of the rink having to pay their medical bills.

        Who could’ve foreseen? Well, all the non-management employees who knew that the alarm had been going off for days before the manager had the battery pulled…

    16. EvilQueenRegina*

      When I was at university, the hall I was in had a separate annexe which was rented out to some family. They never used to bother evacuating when we had a drill or alarm caused by burning dinner etc. Then when there was a real fire, it was in their annexe and they had to be rescued.

      They weren’t there the next academic year, but I don’t think that was the reason. (That was St Andrews 2001, so there was a lot of demand for accommodation that year!)

    17. Marzipan*

      I work at a college that trains paramedics. They are the worst at fire drills. They believe they are emergency professionals and therefore exempt from fire drills. We’ve paid so many fines because of their refusal to leave the building.

      1. Happily Retired*

        This is amazing. Not surprising, but amazing still.

        Has your college started fining the paramedic department the exact amount of the fines? Maybe with a little interest included?

        That’s the only way to make egomaniacs listen up, as best as I can tell.

      2. Still trying to adult*

        New rule: Any people that are in for training must adhere to evacuation orders, or they A) immediately fail the course, B) are reported via mail or email to their direct manager and company HR.

        Clue: As a contractor I’ve been thru security training at a large airport. If you break one rule on site, you are escorted off, and can’t come back until you take training again. WITH YOUR MANAGER IN ATTENDANCE TOO!! It gets harsher if you break rules again.

    18. goddessoftransitory*

      Back in the day I managed an apartment building–I went to the basement one day and found smoke! I ran up and down four flights pounding on doors to get everyone out, grabbing my cat and calling the fire department. (Luckily it was just a guy who had burned his frozen pizza.) As I recall no fire alarm ever went off–I would bet because he had popped the batteries out of his smoke detector (grrrr.)

    19. Cheshire Cat*

      School, not work, but close enough. My senior year of high school, there were some kids who would go around the school and randomly pull the fire alarms. If it wasn’t a scheduled fire drill, one of the vice principals would immediately go on the intercom and tell us to disregard the fire alarm.

      You can guess where this is going.

      One very cold day in January, the fire alarm rang. And the vice principal made the usual announcement. Then, about 3 minutes later, he came on again and said that there was a real fire and everyone should evacuate the building!

      1. Cheshire Cat*

        Of course no one stayed in our designated places outside; everyone ended up at the back of the school building, watching the flames shooting up from the gym.

        I heard later from a friend who was in gym class that period that one of the gym teachers took off down the hall to the office when the “disregard” message went out. Luckily the gym and the office weren’t too far apart, although I’ve always wondered why she didn’t use the intercom.

        It turned out that someone had been smoking in the stairwell between the gym and the locker rooms, and dropped a lit cigarette onto the wrestling mats stored in the stairwell.

    20. Reb*

      I used to work in a pub and was the only one who ever evacuated when fire alarms went off. And the only reason I didn’t get in trouble for that is because the manager figured the noise was triggering my autism.

    21. Six Feldspar*

      I used to work in a large warehouse building and right at the top of the ceiling was a fire alarm that went off at anything and everything, including water vapour and dust. The switch to reset a false alarm was in a locked cupboard in the same warehouse. Every time it went off we had to get the fire marshalls down from the main office to verify the false alarm, unlock the cupboard and reset…

      Well, that was the process until we had to call them three times in about two hours one morning. After that we were allowed to have the cupboard open and reset the alarm ourselves as long as we promised to really check it was false.

      On the one hand, it was a big warehouse to fit a couple of pieces of equipment and had multiple large doors to get everyone out. On the other hand, the humans were about the only flammable things in there which doesn’t fill me with confidence looking back…

  4. Gus TT Showbiz*

    My sense of what’s egregious or not has been wildly skewed by years of working for public schools, but we did have multiple students pass out from heat in our building on the same day and the district response was…nothing. Literally, lots of people contacted them about it and nobody got a response.

    1. Amber T*

      It’s been a while since I was in school, but I remember those days. Our rule was if the room had a window, it didn’t need an AC unit… I remember nearly passing out in my physics class because the room was so damn hot (and my teacher trying to guilt us for being “too sleepy” in class – dude, it was over 90 degrees in the room!). There were only two rooms in the entire building that didn’t have windows, so they got small AC units. It was funny how suddenly everyone needed to speak with either their English or Social Studies teachers when it got hot out…

      1. Wolf*

        Our head teacher had his office in the basement facing north, and if his office wasn’t too hot, that meant everyone else just needed to stop conplaining.

    2. Bird Lady*

      Can confirm. When I was in high school back in the mid-90s, we had to take our final exams in the metal building called “the field house”. There was no climate control. So they we were, in 100 degree heat in June, taking our exams in a metal building. We were not allowed to bring water or cool beverages, only a number two pencil.

      People passed out. One girl went into a coma and almost died.

      The next year, we took our exams in the same building, in the same heat and once again were denied water. People literally showed up in bathing suits.

      1. Ruby Soho*

        My HS is in an group of 3 relatively old buildings that had very poor climate control. Definitely no AC. And they decided when wearing sweaters was no longer mandatory, usually sometime in April, when we would get the occasional hot day. Some teachers would threaten to write up any kid who removed their sweater because it was too hot to be wearing said sweater. But they’d all be wearing short sleeves! It was insanity. A new prison was built a block away, and we’d all be looking out the window, lamenting that even people in jail were more comfortable than we were allowed to be.

      2. mopsy*

        I never understood the no water rule in schools. What do they think kids are gonna do, drink it??

        1. JJLib*

          They might’ve been thinking:

          “If students have water, they’ll drink it. If they drink it, they’ll ask to go to the bathroom. If they ask to go to the bathroom, they might not come back, or they might meet another student and share answers to the test, or…”

          1. darsynia*

            At my oldest’s high school, they won’t let them have water cause they are afraid it’ll be vodka. The number of kids who would bring in vodka is so small compared to the people who NEED WATER and I don’t understand and never will understand the need to punish people who want good things in case IN CASE someone does something bad that won’t affect anyone else.

            1. Perfectly normal-size space bird*

              Potential alcohol was the reason my high school didn’t allow us to have water bottles. We could go outside to the vending machine in front of the gym between classes and get a soda and drink it right there but we couldn’t bring anything into the classrooms from home or bring the soda back with us. And with no AC and in a US state in warmer regions, it really sucked in late spring and early fall.

              Though my English teacher swore it wasn’t about alcohol, it was to protect us from lip cancer. Apparently she’d “read a study” that found when teenagers had to pucker their mouths to drink out of their bottles, it caused lip cancer. She’d write up anyone she saw drinking out of a water bottle, even when not at school.

        2. Mouse named Anon*

          Now they are crazy about kids having water lol. Must be why. We get emails constantly from the school (in the winter no less). DON”T FORGET TO SEND YOUR KIDS WITH WATER.

          1. Cormorant*

            Right? Nobody had a water bottle when I was a kid. If we were thirsty, we could wait until recess to drink from the water fountain outside.

            Now, every kid in school has their own personal reusable water bottle, and backpacks are designed to have a water bottle holder on the side.

            1. Hawkwind80*

              And my local school district has banned the water bottles because they are too often being used as weapons in student fights on campus.

        3. Nobby Nobbs*

          I always heard they thought we were going to smuggle alcohol in our water bottles. Yes, this sounded just as stupid to a middle schooler as to an adult.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            I have actually known a couple of high school students to do this–have some vodka in their water bottle.

      3. Zombeyonce*

        They could have installed HVAC for what that lawsuit would have cost them.

    3. singularity*

      Yeah, doing active shooter drills with high schoolers who’ve been doing them since pre-school and kindergarten hits a little different and it definitely skews your sense of what is ‘acceptable.’ After the Jan. 6th insurrection, none of my students felt any sympathy for members of Congress and the terror they went through.

    4. CL*

      My employers have been generally good about safety and I’ve been through a fire in a high rise, an earthquake, a gas leak, and a hazardous materials lockdown. My local school system makes me tear my hair out. I’ve given up calling the school safety and security people.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        Don’t give up trying to fix it, but talk to different people. Take it to the school board’s public meeting(s) and get enough parents there to raise a fuss with you if you can.

    5. Cyborg Llama Horde*

      There was a while when I was a kid when we weren’t allowed to drink the water in the water fountains because of the lead pipes. Now the same school district is in an argument with the city over… I don’t remember if it’s lead or asbestos, but the city insists the school buildings aren’t safe, and the school district is pointing out that they don’t have anywhere else to put the students (and the city hasn’t coughed up the money for new or even temporary school buildings, so it’s at a bit of an impasse).

      1. Tinkerbell*

        My high school was built in 1929. There was asbestos in the insulation and in the tile. The summer they finally tore it all out, I had to stop by the school office for some reason or another – there was a “CAUTION: ASBESTOS REMOVAL” yellow tape down the middle of the hallway. Construction on the classrooms on one side of the hall, the office staff working happily away on the other :-\

        1. merula*

          This is actually safe. Asbestos fibers are fairly large and fall relatively quickly. They don’t float around in the air like dust. The hazard is from actually disturbing or releasing them, or from re-releasing them from clothing later if you’re not wearing coveralls.

    6. Ink*

      Did you know there’s a number of bats you have to have in a building before it gets condemned? I don’t actually know if that’s true, but my old high school seemed to think so. The tipping point was somewhere between the 6-12 regularly visiting our halls when I was there and the dozens that got a wing of the building condemned when my brother was there a couple years later.

      The district didn’t have the funds to fix the roof! (But did have funding to build a new high school in the rich part of the district, a new building for the existing rich school, and for our terrible principal to construct a few weird ego monuments… I assume they saw the light when someone pointed out that bats carry rabies, and having to pay for vaccines for students and probably some sort of lawsuit would be MUCH WORSE than just replacing the stupid roof. The poor custodians they tasked with containing the infestation until then deserve medals. And raises far higher than they’d ever actually get.)

      1. I hate bats*

        Only about 1% of all bats have rabies. The scary part is you can be bitten without ever knowing it because of how small their teeth are and once you’ve started to show symptoms it’s too late for the shots. As a result it’s recommended that you get the shots if you realize a bat has been in your living areas, especially if it was overnight.
        Which is why my kids and I are fully vaccinated against rabies.

      2. Tiny Soprano*

        Oh wow that reminds me of another fun anecdote regarding bees.

        My mother worked in an old building, and a few of them started to notice this sweet, rancid smell, a lot of noise, and heaps of bees indoors. The building was owned by the local council, so of course it took ages for it to be investigated. By the time they did, there was an entire hive in the wall. 50kg of honey was removed. This was like a good 7 years ago and that office still stinks of fetid honey.

        1. Tinkerbell*

          My public library was small – essentially one room, a storage area, and a single-stall bathroom. I was the “branch manager” but also the only employee. My desk was in the middle of the room, with a tube running up to the ceiling for the computer cables and power and such. There was a small bank of three computers along one wall and books along the others.

          The issue: if anyone used my electric pencil sharpener, all the computers in the library would reboot. The public computers reset when that happens, so you lose all your work.

          The compounding issue: clearly it was a power problem, but we couldn’t fix it because the wiring all ran through a MASSIVE wasp nest in the attic. IT (rightfully) didn’t want to mess with that, so it continued to be an issue for about six months until the town facilities and maintenance guy basically suited himself up in as many layers of clothing as he could manage and went up there to empty three cans of wasp spray at the nest. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that about a week after discovering the issue, I’d simply… unplugged the electric pencil sharpener.

    7. Anonymous For Today*

      okay so there’s no way to anonymize this enough so. new name for the day!

      I coached gymnastics. my boss did not understand the safety requirements of gymnastics facilities. this. individual. bought a backyard trampoline because he did not want to buy the matting that you need to buy with a competitive trampoline and set that sucker up in the middle of our gym. (backyard trampolines are dangerous as a toy. it’s irresponsible to use them as a training tool)

      1. Anonymous For Today*

        aw dang it that was supposed to be its own thing not a sub comment. sorry about that!

    8. Kevin Finnerty*

      I looked into filing an OSHA complaint about temperature in the public school where I work and was horrified to discover our building, which was basically a sauna, was not hot enough to be worth complaining. In fact, OSHA is pretty board-minded about temperature.

      1. Bob-White of the Glen*

        Yes, I demand we shut down when the building temp is over 85, but there is no temperature regulations in place for a library building. We’ve been as low as 57 and as high as 89. OSHA needs to have a range that an office scenario cannot fall above or below. Especially in buildings where no space heaters are allowed.

        1. Orv*

          Yeah, I work at a university where the buildings don’t have A/C. About two or three times a year my office tops 90F.

    9. TiffIf*

      When I was in elementary school (2nd grade) we once got sent home early because the building had no AC and students were showing signs of heat exhaustion.

      That summer Central AC was installed in the school

    10. E*

      Sort of the opposite, I went to a university that never closed for bad weather. The area didn’t get much snow, but a lot of ice and below freezing temps. After a week of extremely cold weather, the health center staff all threatened to quit because of the amount of frostbite cases they had.

      1. Perfectly normal-size space bird*

        I lived in a similar area, with ambient temps that would reach -40F at least a few times a year and windchill temps that could reach -70F. Ambient temps of -10F to -20F were very frequent in winter and for three months straight it never got above 0F. One year, we had a cold snap with record-setting ambient and windchill temps with incessant high speed wind gusts. Cars straight up would not start. There were not enough heater blocks for all the school busses so the local schools shut down because it was too dangerous for people to walk. Businesses shuttered and even the crappy call center I used to work at canceled work for the day.

        The university refused to close. They said since students live on campus, they can easily walk from building to building to stay warm. They failed to realize 1) not all students lived on campus, including students living in off-campus university housing and 2) 99% of the employees don’t live on campus. Despite employees putting up a fight, the university president refused to close campus. He lived in the university mansion that was also his office, so it’s not like he had to travel anywhere.

        Fortunately, most instructors had better sense and canceled classes, while most staff called in sick. The university president’s contract was not renewed the following year.

    11. St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Research*

      And at the other end of the weather spectrum, my son’s school has been battling black mold for years. They keep telling parents it’s completely safe because the humidity readings they take… once a month on selected dry days and in rooms not affected by the mold… are within federal limits. Meanwhile the mold is visibly creeping along the ceilings and teachers have had to throw out their classroom books.

    12. Striped Badger*

      The flashbacks to primary school. You know how they love to give a Christmas show for all the parents at the end of the year?

      In Australia, December is SUMMER. The height of summer.

      The number of times a kid fainted because they had to stand on the auditorium stage for hours while everyone had to practice their part for the show…

    13. Tiny Soprano*

      My bestie works at a school where somehow, the thermostat sensors are buried in concrete between the floors, so the heating and cooling is all over the shop. Her classroom is frequently around 13 or 14 Celcius in winter. She calls it the ice box. How the students are supposed to concentrate I have no idea.

  5. Amber T*

    Why does no one move when the fire alarm goes off? When I first started at my job, the fire alarm went off and I dutifully got up, grabbed my bag and walked out of my cubicle… and everyone in their offices acted as if they didn’t hear it (and it was LOUD). The response? “Oh, it’s probably nothing.” And in this instance, yeah it ended up being nothing (the system was faulty or something? I forget what, but no one pulled it and there was no emergency), but I’m not getting trapped inside a burning building for “it’s probably nothing.”

    1. Chidi has a stomach ache*

      This is so funny to hear – I’ve primarily worked in educational institutions (secondary ed, universities) and everyone very dutifully evacuates for a fire alarm, even in admin buildings. All those school drills really work to instill the instinct.

      1. londonedit*

        I think that’s the problem – in most office buildings there will be a weekly fire alarm test, and various fire drills, so I think people just hear an alarm, and if there’s no obvious fire nearby then they shrug and think ‘must be another test’.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I’ve never heard a weekly fire alarm; most offices I’ve worked in have had them once or twice a year. And never at my current building!

          1. londonedit*

            Not a drill, but someone will come round to test the alarms once a week. Doesn’t require any evacuation or anything, it just makes an annoying noise and everyone goes ‘ugh, right, it’s Tuesday, fire alarm testing’.

            1. MsSolo (UK)*

              Everywhere of a certain size that I’ve worked at in the UK has weekly tests, at the same time every week, usually with an announcement that it is a test, and exhortation to let security/H&S know if it didn’t sound in your part of the building.

              1. The Prettiest Curse*

                Yup, we have weekly tests at our office building (which has lab space too) – but I work a hybrid schedule, so I don’t think I’ve ever heard the alarm!

                1. unheard*

                  If you get a notice that’s happening on X day, and on X day it doesn’t happen, you let them know.

                2. Sharpie*

                  Let security know if the *alarm* didn’t sound, not if they didn’t hear the announcement. Fire alarms don’t use the PA system in the UK, or at least they don’t use the same system in my experience.

              2. BubbleTea*

                Yes, UK here and my office building has a weekly test apparently. It’s on a day I don’t usually work so it won’t affect me much.

              3. Lexi Vipond*

                Tuesday at 8:55 am for us. I don’t often hear it – I tend to come in just on 9 – but we have a lot of corridor doors kept open by magnets that close automatically when the alarm goes off, so if you find them all closed then it must be Tuesday.

          2. nona*

            Uh – also have never worked anywhere with a *weekly* alarm test.

            I do live in the Upper Midwest and we get tornado/severe weather siren testing (outside, not for buildings) the first Wed of every month (Apr/May – Oct-ish) at 1 pm. So, you’ll hear the (air raid) sirens just after lunch and then be “oh yeah, its Wed”.

            1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

              Our tornado sirens (central Indiana) go off every Friday at 11am. (That’s how I know when the AAM open thread is up. :P )

              1. Just Another Museum Nerd*

                I’m in East Central Indiana and can comfirm the tornado sirens go off every Friday at 11am. I can hear them really well in my office and I’m always surprised that the morning has been going by so fast.

              2. Orv*

                When I lived in Michigan it was the first Monday of the month at noon. They were old Thunderbolt civil defense air raid sirens. The deep growl of one of those winding up still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. During an actual storm, with the sound fading in and out of the wind, it was downright apocalyptic.

            2. ThatGirl*

              Yeah, ours are the first Tuesday of the month at 1o a.m. Always a minor jump scare.

            3. Gracie*

              Also UK – my office tests every Friday, my building where I live tests every Thursday. Super normal. Maybe it’s just a UK thing, based on who is confirming that this is common

            4. Feckless rando*

              Ah yes, the Wednesday Wee-Woos as we called it in high school. My mom calls it “it’s noon already!?”

            5. AngryOctopus*

              Weekly ones are mostly tested before most people are in the building (think 5:30/6AM), and only facilities/maintenance are there to make sure it’s working. Minimal disruption for the non-safety workers.

            6. Elitist Semicolon*

              Same, only it’s noon here. I come from a tornado-less part of the country and the first time I heard the siren test here I almost fainted, because in my old hometown, that noise means the nuclear plant has melted down.

              1. Orv*

                One town I lived in used the same sires both for tornados and for calling in the volunteer fire department. A rising/falling tone meant a fire, a steady tone meant a tornado.

              2. Neurodivergent in Germany*

                Me too.
                I grew up two towns over from a nuclear plant. I worried about that one when I was too young (or too head-in-the-clouds) to pick up on the regular testing schedule.
                Those old air raid sirens used to freak me out; now I am freaked out about not having heard them tested in years.

              3. Dog momma*

                Our nuclear plant had advertisements on the radio and TV stations the day before and the day of testing so people would know.

            7. Distracted Procrastinator*

              our sirens are on the first Saturday of the month.

              One day about 18 months ago, we were expecting severe storms in the afternoon that would pass through during normal work hours. I asked where the tornado shelter was in the building and got “huh, I don’t think we have one.” “So where do we go if there is a tornado?” “Find a spot that looks safe?” It’s been 18 months and we still don’t have a severe weather plan for the employees. I do not work for Amazon.

              1. The Provisional Republic of A Thousand Eggs*

                Where I live (Finland), all residential buildings have air raid shelters (that could presumably double as shelters from all sorts of other things). Without fail, these shelters will be filled with storage units, something like 2×2 m per apartment.

                I live in an assisted-living facility, and here it’s different. Our shelter is used for medical and sanitary supplies.

                Well, probably doesn’t matter much. Our sirens aren’t very loud anyway. (I know because they’re tested on the first Monday of each month, 12 noon, and most of the time I can hardly make them out even with the windows open.)

          3. Chas*

            Our workplace (a UK University) has a weekly test to make sure the alarm is working (which we know in advance is going to happen at 3pm on a Tuesday), but we’re not expected to leave the building unless the alarm hasn’t stopped after 30 seconds. Of course, this always leads to a moment of hesitation whenever the alarm goes off, because everyone spends 10-30 seconds thinking “is this the test or do we have to leave now?”

        2. EvilQueenRegina*

          Where I am, there’s a regularly scheduled time for the drill (usually first thing on Wednesday morning), so if it’s at that time people will shrug it off but evacuate if it happens any other time. I remember in my first year at university, the time was 2.30pm Monday for the test in our halls, and since I usually had a class then, I usually missed it and therefore forgot all about it until the time when it was revision week and I was home at the time, I was half way down the stairs before it stopped and I realised.

        3. Dust Bunny*

          We don’t, because every time someone looks at the fire alarm funny a fire truck shows up (we once had three in a row because the guys from the fire alarm monitoring company were trying to do basic maintenance. Pretty sure my supervisor passed the bills on to them), but I’m the department fire “captain” and if you don’t get your ass out to the (clearly communicated and easy to locate) designated meeting spot in the parking lot I’m coming after you with something sharp.

        4. Bagpuss*

          When I was a student, in my first year I lived in Universiaty accommodation and we had reguslar alarm tests evey Wednesdya at around mid day. They were to test the system and we were notified in advance, told it would be a could of brief rings and that we were not required to evacuate.

          Whe we did have a genuine alarm it was, inevitably, at noon one Wednesday, and almost no one evacuated. A lt of people sat in their windows ogling the firefighters as they arrived and only leftwhen people came running along the corridors to tell them to.
          (no one was hurt, it turned out to be a minor fire in the kitchen of the dtudent union bar, which was part of the same building – it was put out by the workers before it got big, but it had triggered the automatic alarms and that triggered the auto call to the fire service.

          When I was taking exams at school when i was 16 we had a fire alarm mid-exam. We were all escorted out of the exam hall onto the tennis courts and had to staf 3 feet apart while the invigilators walked up and down telling us we were still under exam conditions and not permitted to speak or move closer to each other! It turned out to be a false alarm, a younger student had set the alarm off as a joke, so after half an hour or so werwe were escorted back in and had to finish the exam, and the school had to send a report to the exam board about the disruption.

        5. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          I’ve worked places with and without regular testing, but usually they’re scheduled for off hours (like 7 am) and we’re notified in advance.

        6. Labrat*

          My site has a special “this is a test of the system” announcment followed by mellow piano for our weekly tests. I suspect just so people don’t go right back to work in a real alarm.

      2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Not being contrary, but it’s funny you say that because it reminds me:
        I was in 2nd grade, brother in middle school, sister in high school.
        Bro said they had a fire drill. The went outside. I was all jealous.
        My sister said the fire alarm went off at HS, too, but nobody gets excited because nobody moves. I was scandalized, I tell you! You get up and file out.
        Eight years later, freshman year. Alarm goes off. Nobody moves unless there’s an announcement beforehand because some jackass pulls one every week. Got so we really could ignore the sound.
        It was absurd.
        They retrained us to ignore it!

        1. Amber T*

          In high school we were told that either the alarms would shoot ink and spray the person pulling it OR the cages were locked and only opened with a key that admin staff had to dissuade us from pulling it. To be honest, I was a full grown adult when I realized that neither of those were probably true.

          1. Tinkerbell*

            Actually, some fire alarm pulls do have a dye that squirts onto your hand, for this very reason :-) Not quite a “spray you in the face” scenario, but it allows for proof and prosecution if someone is abusing the system.

          2. Jessastory*

            the ink should be a thing- it’d be a badge of honor for whoever pulled the alarm in a real emergency. we had a small electrical fire at my school this year and there were students both bragging to have warned the office about it( truthfully) and claiming to have started it (falsely). the rumor mill is mighty.

      3. Nonsense*

        I actually had a fire alarm go off during my 7:30 am diff-eq midterm in college. Everyone froze and just sort of stared at each other, because waddya mean a fire alarm is actually going off in a class building, not a dorm?? And then 12 years of fire drills kicked in and we all grabbed our bags and dutifully shuffled outside. Our prof kindly dropped the midterm from our grades.

        But it wasn’t an organized effort to leave. A different class in the same building didn’t leave until they smelled burning rubber (electric fire). We really did just rely on the old habits from fire drills.

      4. RabbitRabbit*

        I’d evacuate for class building fire alarms but where I went to college, the second dorm I lived in was a large brick and concrete high-rise. We had fire alarms essentially every weekend (which can extend into Thursday nights the way college goes) at extremely late/early hours. These were generally set off by drunk students alarm-pulling on their way out of the building, but also via drunk students playing with fire extinguishers, or less commonly by late night burning popcorn in the microwave.

        You learned pretty quickly to listen to the alarm blare pattern. It would let you know what floor it was on and what wing. It got to the point where if it wasn’t your floor or an adjacent floor, a lot of students wouldn’t leave – and you’d only leave on an adjacent floor because the rumor was that the Fire Department would search rooms and fine you a ton of money if you hadn’t evacuated.

        There was one real fire that I knew of, in an adjacent building of the same construction. Someone went to class one morning and left a window open and a candle burning. The wind knocked the candle over. The room was gutted but the thick wooden door was left intact, and the cinderblock construction left the adjacent rooms just fine, maybe a little smoke seeping in.

        1. BubbleTea*

          My uni accommodation was all one building but essentially multiple blocks connected by corridors, and when the fire alarm went off in one building, a separate alarm went off in the adjacent ones. We had an awful few months where a fault kept setting off the alarms at night and not showing on the controls that the adjacent alarms were going off, so someone would have to go to the office at 2am to get it sorted.

        2. Anon for this one*

          I was once receiving an IV chemotherapy infusion (a several-hour process) at the hospital when the fire alarm went off. The pump on the IV had a battery backup, so in theory I could unplug it and walk outside, but had no idea if I should do that or wait for my nurse to disconnect the IV. A minute or so later she came in, said the alarm was for another wing of the hospital, and we should stay put.

          1. RabbitRabbit*

            I work for a hospital so the wing construction is very important – basically ours is constructed such that we have doors that automatically shut to block off wings/floor portions (and if you’re in an affected wing, you just move down the hall through a fire door to a safe region). Then if need be, you move down a floor to escape a floor with too much smoke/fire involvement, and final resort would be a full building evacuation. Fortunately the latter two have not been required!

            1. Nightengale*

              Hospitals can evacuate horizontally across fire doors! And I have actually done this. I had actually had nightmares all through medical school about someday having to evacuate a hospital.

              I worked in a tiny rehab hospital/clinic/school that was very dysfunctional but had an amazing fire protocol. If you were with a student/patient you stayed put and awaited further directions. If you were not working with someone, you went to a “manpower pool” (mostly women) and a designated staff for the area with a fluorescent vest and walkie would give directions, like to send people from the clinic area to help evacuate the school. We did a full drill evacuation once a year.

              One day I was in with a patient and the alarm went off and we stayed put as ordered. Our office manager came to get us and said we had to go. I assumed we were going outside but she led us to the cafeteria across fire doors. (I learned later it was POURING outside.) A teenaged patient had set a fire in the bathroom in our wing so there was an actual fire. The whole thing was very organized. Except for possibly my next patient who had arrived and who was running laps around the cafeteria. Since most of the people he was running around were pediatric occupational therapists though, no one really minded. I remember someone called down on a walkie about a patient whose mother was upstairs and being told the child was completely safe and in the arms of her therapist.

          2. Deborah*

            Yeah, hospitals can cover ACRES so location is important. Whenever the fire alarm goes off at mine, they tell you WHERE the alarm is pulled so you can assess your risk level.

      5. Seriously?*

        Except now, after Parkland, you have to sit in the room and wait for them to tell you if you should evacuate or not.

      6. Lunchtime Doubly So*

        I worked in secondary ed and agree that schools are very orderly in their process in how to evacuate for a fire alarm. However, one private school I worked wasn’t quite as well organized. When they walked the teachers through a mock drill, they basically just showed us what exit was nearest to use. When I asked what the procedure was for signaling a room was empty (some schools want you to close the door as a signal, some want the door to be open and have someone else come by to verify), they said, “If there’s a fire, you won’t have time to open or close a door, you just need to get out of there!” I pointed out that keeping calm during a fire alarm was probably best, especially in front of students, but they didn’t seem to agree.

        1. Lora*

          Did they tell you run out panicked? Probably not. You get out calmly and don’t bother about doors.

    2. djx*

      In most big office buildings in my city (New York) you’re not supposed to evacuate when the alarm goes off. Rather you’re supposed to be prepared to evacuate and listen for further instructions. But not head out just due to an alarm.

      Mass evacuation has risks too, and it might be the case that only specific floors are at risk whereas filling the stairs with everyone might prevent movement to safety by people who need it. Or the alarm might be for danger outside the building and instead we should stay put.

      1. Amber T*

        That does make sense. We were ~50 people in our own building that was somewhat long but all one floor. To be honest, fire safety and what to do when the alarm goes off has never been covered at our work… I was fresh out of college and used to the school drills where it’s “everyone get out in an orderly fashion, but every one get out.”

        1. djx*

          We got trainings on fire/emergency safety twice a year in both large office buildings I worked in most recently – mandated by the City (though many people did not attend).

        2. I Have RBF*

          Every place that I have worked for more than six months had at least one scheduled fire drill. We’d get notified that “there will be a fire and evacuation drill during the week of X, Y, Z. Please evacuate to your designed location.”

          In California you need to have evacuation drills once a year:

          Furthermore, CAL OSHA requires employers to conduct fire drills at least once every 12 months for all employees. The drills must be designed to familiarize employees with the sound of the fire alarm and to train them on the proper evacuation procedures.

      2. New Yorker*

        Yes, at my previous office building (12-13 stories) we were only supposed to evacuate if the fire was on our floor, or the one immediately above or below us. If the alarm went off and it wasn’t for a fire, we were supposed to wait for further instructions because it might be safer to shelter in place.

        1. djx*

          Shelter in place.

          Avoid – Barricade – Confront (for active shooters or other violent people).

          All the good stuff.

        2. Oryx*

          When I lived in the dorms in college, the ours/above/below was the rule for fire alarms as well.

          1. Missa Brevis*

            God, I wish. We had so many evacuations because of people smoking in the attic. (I do not actually wish we had that rule. Our building was 100 years old and built on the site of a previous building that had burned down, the college was totally sensible to maintain an ‘everybody out’ policy.)

      3. Observer*

        In most big office buildings in my city (New York) you’re not supposed to evacuate when the alarm goes off. Rather you’re supposed to be prepared to evacuate and listen for further instructions. But not head out just due to an alarm.

        I don’t think that that is correct. Unless it’s for buildings where pretty much the only way out is the elevators and you need to find out if there are any that are safe to use.

        Or the alarm might be for danger outside the building and instead we should stay put

        I don’t know of any building where something like a fire alarm goes off *inside* a building for a situation happening *outside*.

        1. Askew*

          This is standard in my (huge) London office – there is an alarm followed by a recorded announcement that there is an incident and to stand by for further instructions. Sometimes it’s followed by instructions to evacuate, sometimes it’s followed by an announcement that the incident is over. Office is in the City which has been / still is a previous target of both terrorism and large protests

        2. zinzarin*

          You “don’t think” and “don’t know” whether another poster’s personal experience is true or not, so you came here to correct them even though you “don’t know?”

          1. Observer*

            That’s not what I said.

            What I said is that what that person said is not universal at all. Based on my experience in the same city.

            1. New Yorker*

              You said, “I don’t think that that is correct. Unless it’s for buildings where pretty much the only way out is the elevators and you need to find out if there are any that are safe to use.”

              I can tell you from personal experience it is correct for some people/buildings. The building I mentioned in my post had a stairwell and elevators. As an aside, what (read 6 or more stories) office building in NYC wouldn’t have elevators? That’s bananas. I don’t even know if it’s legal to have elevators as the only means of egress.

              We had one alarm system in the building where I worked (again 12-13 stories). If it went off the building staff would follow up with an announcement over the PA system about whether it was a drill or not. We had regular trainings for fire, shooter, etc. responses. If it’s something outside the building (e.g. chemical leak, or police activity) it may be safer to shelter in place.

        3. Maglev to Crazytown*

          Workplaces absolutely should have a notification system for things that are happening outside the building where the best option is to safely shelter in place. That is standard, and you absolutely want to ask about this at yours. Look at all the people in office buildings who have had to shelter in place for an extended period due to a chemical train derailment or facility incident even MILES away from them. People should NOT be running outside into a situation that is best handled as a shelter in place.

        4. spiriferida*

          Multi-story buildings often have different fire management strategies than smaller buildings and personal homes. Usually it’s because they’re designed to be segmented, to prevent fire from moving through the entire building and causing collapse. So yes, in something like New York City, the instructions are often to remain in place unless the place you’re in is directly threatened by fire.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Commercial fire alarm systems can be designed to take control of HVAC equipment to manage spread of smoke in a building. It’s one thing that makes segmented evacuation a safe concept.

        5. Spreadsheets and Books*

          Live and work in New York, and all of my offices have been in high rises along 6th Ave. This has been the policy in all of my buildings.

          And all of them have instructed us to evacuate to other floors, not out of the building entirely, unless something really wild is going on.

      4. LabSnep*

        Yeah, where I work now if the alarm goes off we are to, as one surly firefighter said over the comms one day like we were his kids “stay in your room” (we all laughed).

        Then the direction we evacuate depends on where the fire is, and unless the entire building is at risk it’s only two fire doors away in one direction or another (or down two floors)

      5. Springtime*

        Yes, I’ve experienced the same when working in a high-rise in my city. Floors were often evacuated to other floors, rather than out of the building entirely. And one stairwell was reserved for the use of the fire department coming up, so you had to wait to be told which one to use.

        Also, I’ll note that organizations in my area had a rash of bomb threats last year, leading to recent trainings for that type of emergency. Evacuation for a bomb threat is not the default, because it’s more likely that someone wants people out of the building for nefarious purposes (including doing harm to people as they rush out) than it is that there’s a real bomb.

      6. AngryOctopus*

        In a lot of tall buildings they only evacuate the floor with the issue and one other. A warning goes off for the whole building, but the announcement says to not evacuate unless the alarm then goes off after the announcement is done. So you’re alert to an issue, but you may not have to leave right away (fire department will come and sound the alarm generally if you all have to get out).

    3. CTT*

      So, at my office there are apparently extremely sensitive smoke detectors and we have what turn out to be false alarms quarterly. My office is also on the 19th floor, and after multiple times of being halfway down the stairs and hearing “all clear, false alarm,” it gets old! To be fair, our admins have been really trying to get people to take it seriously, and my new habit is to just leave and WFH the rest of the day. But all those false alarms do create a “boy who cried wolf” scenario that don’t have me running for the stairs.

      1. Mad Harry Crewe*

        My building forgot to tell our floor about an alarm test one time. We all grabbed our laptops and trooped down the stairs and hung out in the parking lot across the street – my coworker who lived nearby walked home to finish his day. Unfortunately, my bike was still in the office bike room and I was stuck until we knew it was safe to go back in.

      2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        Especially when, as in many places, the stairs are exit-only for security reasons, so you need to go all the way downstairs anyway, then wait for an elevator back up!

    4. ThatGirl*

      Heh, my office recently stared at each other as the tornado sirens were going off outside, wondering if we should do anything. (There was not a tornado near us, but there was some cloud rotation in the region.)

      As to fire alarms – my junior year of college a dorm burned down on campus. I was off-campus at an internship that semester, but just happened to be back for the weekend for my college paper’s 150th anniversary. I left to go back to the airport before the fire broke out (around 7 a.m. on a Sunday) but one of my friends was still there and had been staying in that dorm, and had to leave her suitcase and purse behind. Nobody was hurt, thankfully, but that friend had a fire alarm go off a few weeks later at the office she was interning at and you better believe she promptly gathered her belongings and exited the building.

      1. Tinkerbell*

        My sister is a museum curator. She was working a small local museum when there was a tornado warning. They herded everyone into the basement… where there was currently an exhibit on the giant tornado of 1974 that leveled most of downtown. Including a video on a ten-minute loop, complete with lots of dramatic footage of buildings being destroyed. They all got to listen to how impressively dangerous tornadoes can be SEVERAL times through before they got the all-clear!

    5. Medium Sized Manager*

      My husband is like that and it drives me nuts. Even if the building does have a lot of false alarms, why do you want to sit and listen to it?? Go outside where it’s not obnoxiously loud??

    6. JFC*

      Because it’s usually nothing. They used to go off with some regularity at my old building for either testing or false alarms. Most people can tell if there’s an actual fire by smelling smoke, seeing flames, etc. and then they’ll move. Disrupting the workday for a faulty beeping is unnecessary.

      1. Kivrin*

        This is a bit off topic but I have a friend whose condo building frequently had those “it’s really nothing” types of alarms. It went off at 6 am so he decided to get up and put on his running gear and go for a run until the alarms stopped. There was a real fire and he wasn’t allowed to go back into his unit for more than a month — and there he was in his running gear, nothing else. So I always lean into “it might really be a fire, I’m out of here.”

      2. Kara*

        You may wish to check how many people die each year because they didn’t see obvious signs of a fire until it was too late. It’s a false alarm until it isn’t.

      3. Observer*

        Most people can tell if there’s an actual fire by smelling smoke, seeing flames, etc. and then they’ll move

        This is absolutely not true. But this idea DOES lead to lives lost.

        We’ve had a couple of fires in our building. In neither case would most of our staff have known that there was a fire until it was at a point that getting out would have been much harder, and some people would probably have been trapped. Fortunately, in both cases the Fire department showed up before the fire reached staff areas, but that’s REALLY not something to depend on. Especially since some fires move very, very quickly.

      4. Sweet Fancy Pancakes*

        Except that sometimes the alarm is going off for other reasons- gas leak, for example, so you wouldn’t see anything at all.

    7. LunaLena*

      Part of is the human desire of wanting to believe that nothing is wrong, and the world is not about to change. There’s a really good book on the subject called The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes by Amanda Ripley, with each chapter studying a different of disaster (Hurricane Katrina, the Virginia Tech shooting, people getting crushed in the crowds at Mecca etc), how people reacted in each situation, and how that often determined who lived and who died. The last chapter was on 9/11, and focused on security expert Rick Rescorla, who was responsible for security at Morgan Stanley and strictly drilled everyone on how to safely evacuate the Towers regularly, to the point of even taking phones out of top exec’s hands during drills and forcing them to evacuate. As a result, almost all 2700 of Morgan Stanley’s employees survived, though Rescorla did not, since he refused to leave until everyone else had gotten out.

      When bad things happen, I think a lot of humans have a tendency to unconsciously think “Make this not be happening,” and pretending that everything’s okay is a result of that. Actually moving to evacuate would force us to acknowledge that this is indeed happening, so in a weird kind of paradox we want to stay put instead. Having other people stay put reinforces that as well.

      1. KT*

        Just checked that book out from the library! Sounds really interesting – thanks for the rec.

      2. Managing While Female*

        “though Rescorla did not, since he refused to leave until everyone else had gotten out.”

        That’s really heartbreaking.

        1. Laser99*

          Wait until you read what he and his wife told each other right before the end. I had to go outside.

      3. CowWhisperer*

        People also tend to think conservatively rather than analytically in an emergency. We tend to save mental energy by following routines. When I taught college labs, most of my students would exit the building by the entrance they used every day – despite the fact that everyone else used that exit and it took 5 minutes or more. The few who got out in a minute used the less used fire stairwell exits we showed earlier in the year.

        I firmly believe I could die in a disaster – so I run mini mental drills when out and about for fires and shootings to think about where I would exit, how I would assist my son with CP before he could self-evacuate and a fast backup plan.

        1. megaboo*

          Honestly, we need to keep aware of our surroundings. I work in a public library and you better believe I’m evacuating. I know where my exits are and I get folks out. Same thing for theaters, grocery stores, dang Disney World…maybe it sounds paranoid, but I don’t know if I’m going to freeze in an emergency. I need a plan!

          1. Angstrom*

            Yup. People tend to try to leave the same way they came in. In theaters, for example, there are almost always exits near the screen/stage, but most people go out the back even if they are sitting in front. Resturants always have an exit through the kitchen.

          2. Panicked*

            I saw a picture not too long ago showing an indoor queue for a very popular ride at Disney, where everyone was extremely close to each other. Very little room for anyone to move and both the doors leading into and out of the space were closed. The person who posted the picture said they had been stuck like that for nearly 45 minutes.

            Now Disney controls things extremely well, but they control people when they panic. I have read lots on crowd crush and all it takes is one tiny thing to set people off. When people panic, all rationality goes out the window. It’s terrifying! I took some time to learn what to do and now I make sure to know where each exit point is.

            1. megaboo*

              And what is helpful at theme parks is that there are sort of no exits when you’re in line, but places like Disney have exit points in the line where you can get out/parents leave with scared kiddos, etc. It’s just a good idea to think about it.

      4. Big Daddy Al*

        Read about Rick Rescorla in Hal Moore & Joe Galloway’s “We Were Soldiers Once, and Young.” It recounts some of Rescorla’s experiences in Vietnam. He was an amazing guy. People who knew him said that his behavior on 9/11 was absolutely what he would do – he knew no other way.

      5. Mad Harry Crewe*

        My ex and I liked the youtube channel Fascinating Horror, which does mini-documentaries about disasters (I like him because he’s very respectful of the dead and focuses on what caused the accident and what, if anything, changed afterwards. It’s not just about spectacle). In a lot of the fire stories, people died because they were looking for their families or otherwise not focused on getting out. We were both very clear – if there is a fire, I will *meet you outside* – do not come and try to find me.

      6. Insert Clever Name Here*

        The podcast Cautionary Tales has a really interesting episode (The Final Illusion of the Great Lafeyette) that talks about several fires with both successful and unsuccessful evacuations, including the Kings Cross escalator fire in 1987, and the fine line between panic and calm that has to be walked in order to actually get people to evacuate from a situation when there is imminent danger.

    8. Seashell*

      My old office had a fire alarm that frequently went off for nothing. Early on, we used to start to go out, but when it was happening at least once a week, we tended to just sit there and see if it continued.

    9. FunkyMunky*

      you’re supposed to do nothing, each office usually has a designated fire Marshal person who will direct people in evacuation.

      1. Mad Harry Crewe*

        That is not a universal statement! Do not assume that someone will tell you to leave!

        If that’s how your office’s fire safety policy works, great. It’s not been the case with any of my offices.

        1. Missa Brevis*

          My lab has designated Emergency Coordinators and Sweepers for each building, but you’re still supposed to evacuate yourself out the nearest door!

          Not sure about FunkyMunky’s office, but our EC is mostly responsible for doing headcount at the muster zone out in the parking lot and to communicate with security and/or emergency services if need be.

        2. Sunbeam+Nap=winning*

          in a lot of modern high rises, stay put for instructions is quite common – we only evacuate a couple floors above and below the fire, everyone else stays in place because it’s actually safer. But yes, this is absolutely dependent on your building, it’s not universal.

    10. kiki*

      I think if you work somewhere where there are a lot of false alarms, it becomes normal to ignore them rather than go through the hassle. I’m with you– I think it’s better to be safe than sorry. I also just like to take the excuse to stretch my legs and get outside!

    11. Spacewoman Spiff*

      I’ve always wondered this too–I haven’t really experienced it at work, but definitely at a couple apartment buildings I’ve lived in, when I’d be one of just a few people to evacuate during an alarm. Yeah, it’s annoying to jam the cat in his carrier and run through a blaring loud hallway to get outside but…that’s a lot better than being trapped in a fire if it’s a real alarm?

    12. AngryOctopus*

      Yeah, we had one go off at OldJob and people were casually going back to get their coats, etc. because “it’s cold out”. Yeah, and it snowed 15″ yesterday and THIS IS NOT A DRILL BECAUSE THEY WOULD HAVE CANCELLED A DRILL BECAUSE OF THE NARROW SNOWY SIDEWALKS, GET OUT. (Yes, I was literally yelling at people. Yes I had my coat, only because I was in my office at the time and I grabbed it on my way out. I was also wearing my ‘inside flats’ instead of snow boots.). One of the chemists had thrown something inappropriate in the biohazard trash and started a fire. We were kicked out for 3 hours because they had to do air quality tests because of what it was that he had disposed of, in addition to it burning in a box full of biohazards and the plastic bags for the biohazard trash. The Ops manager threatened that if he ever saw anyone going back for a coat again, including in a planned drill, there would be consequences, and he was not kidding around.

      1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        If I’m at my desk I’m grabbing my coat (back of my chair), purse, and phone (on my desk), but I’m certainly not going out of my way for them! (Or taking my laptop. It’s company property, they can worry about it.)

        1. AngryOctopus*

          Yep! Grabbed my coat because it was right there, but didn’t take bag (should have, could have gone home, I lived a 5′ walk away). Did take my phone, it was probably in my pocket anyway. So I could purchase coffee at the mall Dunkin as we waited to be cleared.

      2. Orv*

        I started grabbing my coat for alarms in my college dorm after one incident where I was stuck outside for an hour, in 10 degree weather, in only my pajamas.

    13. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

      I worked as a process engineer for a company that had very flammable and dangerous chemicals and during start up they were having issues with the fire alarms triggering for no reason. It was expensive to evacuate because everyone wore cleanroom suits so they issued a directive that all alarms were false alarms and do not evacuate.

      Uh no buddy, these are chemicals that can potentially explode the entire building – if the alarm is going I am out of there. Every time. About half of the technicians went with me. Their supervisor threatened them. I told them loudly that if they got written up they should contact OSHA. They didn’t threaten anymore but still only half the people evacuated.

      I did find out years later that they complained to my boss and he asked if they wanted to put it in writing that they demanded people not evacuate during an alarm.

      1. Hazel*

        Good luck to anyone telling a process engineer that … you plan for and around sequences of events, including ones that create hazards!

    14. Maggie*

      This terrifies me. My dad was a firefighter, and he always said that even though 95% of the time it’s a false alarm, you treat it like the real deal. Because that 5% could be a gas leak, or an electrical fire in the walls, who knows? Shortly before he started at his department, they lost an experienced firefighter when a “routine false alarm” turned out to be an electrical problem that caused a transformer to explode.

    15. thatsoundsfishy*

      We were told to “shelter in place” during fire alarms. Yeah, I don’t understand it either but I knew where the nearest window was and had a chair in mind that would break it if needed.

    16. Julia*

      I work in a library and there are always people who will not move when the fire alarm goes off. Once we made an announcement we were closing immediately due to a gas leak. People kept on asking if it was necessary and arguing when we told them the fire chief ordered the building closed.

      1. Ev*

        Lord, some library patrons. Our library building had a fire once, there were several fire trucks parked in the parking lot, and we had patrons *parking in between the fire trucks* to try to go in to pick up their holds. It took several minutes to talk people out of it.

      2. Cheshire Cat*

        My former library was in a rural county where there was an Army training camp of some sort during WW2. The camp closed but occasionally there would be stories about people finding unexploded bombs in the woods.

        One day while I was working, someone found a bomb in the woods. He *put it in his pickup truck* and drove it into town, to the National Guard armory. The nearest military base sent a bomb squad to safely take care of it.

        The police evacuated a several block radius around the armory, and the library was in the evacuation zone. We didn’t have a PA system so staff had to walk around and tell patrons that the library was closing immediately. Most people were cooperative but there was one woman waiting to use the public computers who wanted her internet time first…

    17. Bast*

      We were the opposite. At Old Old Job, the fire alarm went off at least once a month because someone burned something in the microwave/toaster. We all WANTED to leave because that place was a hellhole, so even though we knew it was likely that the alarm went off because someone burned popcorn again, we’d dutifully gather outside for as long as we reasonably could, dragging our feet when the fire department said it was safe to go back in. We would get out as fast as possible and go back in as slowly as we could.

    18. Kyrielle*

      I am with you, I am walking out when it goes off. And even if I were inclined to ignore it – which I’m not, I prefer to remain un-cooked, thanks – I still would. Do these people not get *headaches* from the noise?

      1. JustaTech*

        Seriously, ours our nauseatingly loud, even when you cover your ears.

        One lab where I worked the whole building had a fire drill (announced well in advance) and the bakery downstairs promised everyone who evacuated a cookie (really big good cookies) and they still only got about 15% of people to leave. And probably half of those people were people from my lab who were herded out by me and the lab manager.

    19. BookishMiss*

      I worked in a call center, and they were very “if the fire alarm goes off, you end the call and gtfo.”

      One of my coworkers missed the “hang up” part and put a caller on hold for a fire drill. Caller was still there when we got back, and Coworker has become legend.

  6. cindylouwho*

    Similar to point 3: active shooter in the building, locked down, lights off, and my coworker kept opening our door to go to another room where we worked, then coming back into our room (he had a key) to go about his daily work…

    1. Shirley Keeldar*

      My first thought was—what. WHAT.

      My second was—oh yeah, I tend to react to panic like that, by doing weirdly normal things. Wandering around cleaning this or that, often. I think my brain finds it soothing? Look, I am dusting the mantel. Nothing really bad can be happening if I’m dusting the mantel.

      (I hope in a dreadful situation like that described here I would overcome the impulse! And if not, full permission to tackle me.)

    2. milkdudsnotdrugs*

      In my opinion, this should be a fireable offense. He was literally leading a murderer to his coworkers location. You are all very lucky he was not spotted. This is egregious, reckless, shocking and just insane. I would struggle to ever trust or work alongside with someone so willing to flippantly risk my life.

      1. Kevin Finnerty*

        I agree with this. I used to work in a building that was considered a very likely target for a mass shooting and… yes, this should be fireable.

    3. Ink*

      I have a book called The Unthinkable about how we react to emergency situations, and this is apparently pretty common. Kind of like how denial is a stage of grief, people kind of short circuit and it can be hard to snap them out of it into an appropriate response.

      Hard second to the tackling though, I’m sorry you had to have an extra layer of stress added to an already awful situation.

  7. call center trauma*

    “At a call center job, there was a tornado that touched down just a few miles away and they refused to let people off the phones to seek shelter. Another time someone pulled the fire alarm and no one moved. They just kept on taking calls because they would get in trouble or face getting fired if they did not take phone calls. A third time people were getting sick. There was an odd smell throughout the center. People were allowed to leave but they did get docked a half point. Someone called the fire department because it could have been a gas leak. Instead of evacuating, they kept everyone working and the fire department walked around with some sort of meter thing. We never found out what it was.”

    I’m pretty sure I worked at this call center and was eventually “promoted” to the front desk. What this meant was that I would get .25 bump per hour to man the phones for the receptionist when she took lunch (a whole other story). OSHA called regularly.

    If this is the same call center, the receptionist called the district manager “Daddy Bear” and he called her “Baby Bear”. I was twenty-three and felt the ick but didn’t know I could report this at the time. Wish I had ask a manager.

      1. call center trauma*

        One time the district manager brought her a stuffed bear. They would chat on teams (there was a general “receptionist account” so I could read it) and call each other this where everyone could see. Baby bear eventually left for another job.

        Baby bear was a great example of how not to behave at work. She would tell me and the other “relief” person about faking pregnancies to keep her boyfriend from breaking up with her and once gave me a detailed explanation of 50 shades of grey.

        I’ve used this as an example now for younger colleagues I work with now–that if they feel the ick–or something makes them feel uncomfortable that HR exists for these reasons.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      That was mine. Were you in the cheese state in a city known for its octoberfest and world largest beer cans?

      1. call center trauma*

        It was the same call center.

        I also recall the bathrooms. They were covered with so many bodily fluids. I worked there more than a decade ago–but still have nightmares about working there. It was so abusive.

          1. call center trauma*

            There was so much wrong with that call center. I sometimes would go on the reddit, and read about COVID times (I hope you weren’t there for that). Working there really shaped my management style and I hope to never have anyone that works for me feel that way.

            Also clean bathrooms not covered in every type of bodily fluid.

            1. Miette*

              On behalf of, IDK, humanity? I am so sorry you both had to work at such an awful place.

              1. call center trauma*

                The call center had to maintain certain levels of call center employees because they performed a very specific service that received federal funds. If it dipped in numbers or quality they would get fined. Basically, this meant that a few people would get paid a ton of money, and that admin did not care about the folks doing the actual work.

                There was a lot wrong with it. You’d get scored on how many calls you could take and get a slip everyday that would tally the times and length you went to the bathroom. Sups would walk around and if they caught you reading or doing anything else on a call, would write you up so it felt like someone was watching you the entire time.

                Mostly, there were times in which, as the original poster writes, where you really had to question personal safety due to inclement weather.

                Once a year they’d give you an extra ten minute break for a holiday potluck. This was generous.

                1. I'm just here for the cats!*

                  I don’t think we are talking about the same call center. Maybe in the same city. Mine worked for company that answered CS phones for Verizon wireless and so we did not get federal funding. I worked from 2014 until they closed in 2017.

                  I’m shocked that there were 2 places that were exactly alike though! However, I know people who bounced around to all the call centers, so it’s not surprising.

              1. call center trauma*

                Yeah, this place was still going. Same area. I think there was a lot of cross pollination.

                The thing that sucked about this call center was that there was a weird human experiment going on where if you were management you had a lot of power. I heard so many supervisors say the worst thing about their subordinates. Nothing to do about it either.

                The economy was really tough when I worked there so leaving wasn’t really an option for a lot of folks working there.

      2. PlainJane*

        Oh hey, I think I know this call center. I had friends who worked there! (I’m also in the land of cheese, Oktoberfest, and giant 6-packs).

      3. Chirpy*

        Ok, now I’m really glad I heard enough rumors about that place that I didn’t apply there despite several people suggesting it, because I’m pretty sure I know which one it is.

  8. TappedOut*

    I was a counselor at a summer camp for a global mega church that did not want to spend a penny more than it had to even if it compromised camper safety. They got a deal on a plot of land for the girl’s camp with NO walled buildings (just porta potties). When a tornado touched down, they made us gather all the girls in an amphitheater and “scream hymns to still the storm”. Come to find out the Boy Scouts in the congregation were in paid for cabins while all of our possessions were removed from the earth.

    1. CanadianNarwhal*

      That’s horrendous! When I was younger I worked at a camp when a tornado touched down nearby. Thankfully on the weekend when there were no kids there, but still plenty of staff. Also thankfully our camp was fine (the trailer camp next door, not so much). But our camp had no buildings with good basement areas for shelter. Within a couple of years they’d started building new cabins which all had basements, and regularly practiced tornado drills.

    2. Albatross*

      Oh dear. My summer camp had a tornado incident at one point – I didn’t find out the full details until later, only that the counselors woke us all up and told us we needed to move into the basement of the building. I mostly remember the only entertainment we had handy was a jumbo pack of coloring sheets clearly meant for small children, and my group was mostly people in the high school credit program, so we spent a couple hours laughing at the coloring sheets. (I have since started including a deck of playing cards in every evacuation kit I make. It’s small, it’s light, and it’s something to do.)

  9. Anon for this*

    ***Mentions 9/11
    My company holds a 30 story building in an east coast city near one of the alternate crash sites. The evacuation was left to individual departments and some people didn’t get word to leave until hours after other floors had been told to clear out. There was no central notice given.
    (after this, emergency plans kicked up 10 fold and there is a central plan that has yearly test runs.)

    1. Clementine*

      I always try to remember that if there’s any unusual event (like a plane crashing into a building), I am giving myself permission to be a “slacker” and just leave, even if not directly affected. I’m haunted especially by the people who could have been saved had they evacuated before plane #2 hit.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Honestly, same. We heard the news before any official announcement from coworkers who had signed up for CNN updates that would pop up all day. I flashed back to my first boss at my first job in a 90 year old, 36 story university building: “you hear an alarm, you get up and leave. You’ll know the way because you will see me. Trust yourself and don’t wait for anyone to approve leaving if you think you are in danger.”
        It had been about 6 years, and I put it to use.

      2. AVP*

        I know a man, retired now, who was a manager on one of the upper floors in the second building. The minute the first plane hit, his bosses were like, oh, let’s wait and see what the building management says, etc etc. He said nope, forced his team to leave immediately via the stairs, and they were on a ferry to NJ by the time the second plane appeared.

        The man is very, very rich from his financial career and honestly he deserves it!

        1. Lizy*

          It’s amazing how many literal lives can be saved by one person saying “nope – I’m gonna do the right thing”

          1. Artemesia*

            It just breaks my heart to think about those people who evacuated from the second building and then went back up to their offices when told to do so and died.

    2. Elle*

      I was in lower Manhattan on 9/11 and heard some doozies from the day and the months following. We were required back in the office two weeks after, blocks from the site and the site was visible from our windows. Not only were we breathing in the orange dust that was always floating around we were constantly traumatized by the trucks of debris going by. My bosses didn’t understand what the big deal was and lost about half the staff in the months following due to trauma, lack of compassion and feeling ill from the debris in the air.

      1. Gila Monster*

        Before we met, my husband worked next door to the WTC. After the first tower was hit, his manager refused to let the team leave. They had to return to the main offices within a week of 9/11, and he had mild respiratory issues for many years that started then.

    3. Seashell*

      I was in a tall building in lower Manhattan on 9/11. We left after the second plane hit. We weren’t sure what to do or if to officially sign out, but our supervisor said to just go. She had been there during the 1993 WTC bombing and said they all just left then. We took the elevator down, which may have been a safety mistake, but we were more than 30 floors up and just getting out ASAP made sense at the time.

      1. Elle*

        We took the elevator as well! My boss couldn’t understand why people were panicking. Prior the second plane the finance director was walking around telling everyone to get back to work.

  10. HS Teacher*

    I think maybe teaching in a public high school in an old building can skew your sense of normal, but recently during an all staff meeting at my school, a swarm of termites was in one part of the auditorium. The people sitting near the swarm (which included me) were told they could move to another area, but the meeting continued on for the next hour. At the end of the meeting our principal announced that the auditorium would be closed from now on until further notice. I came home and took a hot shower, ew!

    1. GirlBob*

      Yeah, I feel like if you have been through An Event in your past, it probably effects how you react to potential Events occurring around you. I went through one, got PTSD the whole nine yards, don’t recommend. Even before, I was always a bit of an “okay, let’s go…” type, but I could be influenced out of it if I was told not to and nobody else seemed to care. But now? I’m like “RIGHT LET’S GO, YES I MEAN YOU LET’S GO EVERYONE OUT I AM NOT PLAYING”. I’m getting out as quickly and safely as possible and taking as many people with me as I reasonably can. I don’t wait.

    2. Sam P.*

      Heck, going to school in an old building can skew your sense of normal too. I went to elementary school in a building that turned 50 when I was in 5th grade (we all got cake!) and that building had Problems. Like lead water pipes that spewed black water after breaks (but just run it for 30 seconds before you let 30 6-year-olds drink it, you’ll be fine!) and multiple occasions of ceiling tiles falling from the leaky roof. All of that was normal. You didn’t walk under the tiles that had weird spots, if you could you brought a water bottle from home.

      When I got to middle and high school and was talking with friends from different elementary schools, they were horrified. I never really thought twice about how bad my elementary school was before that.

      1. Wolf*

        In my school, you had to check with everyone on the whole floor before you plugged in a TV. If another room on the same floor made coffee, or ran another device, the breaker would turn off for the entire floor.

      2. Jessastory*

        I had to evacuate my classroom last time it rained because the ceiling was leaking bad enough I was afraid the ceiling tiles would collapse. who knows how long the leak has been there previously unnoticed, but once I said we needed to evacuate, the custodial team got it fixed within the next two hours.

  11. Anonymous vet*

    I work in a vet clinic where the building has been “condemned” by the owning company- meaning they won’t repair anything since they want the money to go to whatever new building they find. The roof has collapsed in the lobby, and exam room, and X-ray (3 different incidents). A lead wall fell on a pregnant assistant. I got called in to “fix things” when there was an isoflorane leak mid surgery (the room was full of a toxic gas that causes headaches, passing out and miscarriages). Instead of turning the gas off they called me in to figure it out- while pregnant.

    1. Mastermind*

      Probably when they required everyone to report to work the day Hurricane Ian, a category four storm that went through Florida in 2022, because “one of the truck lines wasn’t closing” (it has no office or facility in our area and only like one truck per week coming for pickups) and “we can work in the morning before it gets bad” (storm left several dead and thousands of people out of power by the end of the day) and none of the spineless owners wanted stand up.

      We sell wholesale flowers. Needless to say I didn’t work that day.

    2. BryOake*

      Oh my god. I’ve never hoped more that the company suffered some kind of consequences or backlash for this. Were you/the assistant okay?

    3. Meganly*

      Wait, you still work there?? I would be calling OSHA and health & safety inspectors every day until the building gets condemned for real.

    4. The OG Sleepless*

      OMG. When there is an iso leak, you close off the room and don’t go near it. That goes double for pregnant employees. I do not mess around with iso.

      1. Me*

        isoflurane is an anesthetic gas. it puts people to sleep. it is used daily in operating rooms everywhere

        1. Snax*

          … yes, but you can see why a leak of uncontrolled iso being dumped into a room mid-surgery versus someone trained administering it in controlled, contained amounts aren’t comparable, right?

        2. The OG Sleepless*

          …yes, that’s my point? Not sure what you’re saying. I’ve worked with isoflurane for decades. The situation being discussed is an isoflurane *leak.*

        3. spiriferida*

          And a gas that is safe at measured concentrations administered by an anesthesiologist is not safe when there is a leak leading to unknown concentrations in the space, especially when its literal medical purpose is causing unconsciousness, so yes, an evacuation of the room would be an appropriate response. Especially for a pregnant person.

        4. Hrodvitnir*

          People really be forgetting that anaesthesia is controlled poisoning. Remove the “controlled” and we have a problem.

          (Isofluorane is one method used for culling experimental animals FYI, though not the most common.)

    5. question*

      Is.. anyone finding a new rental and breaking the lease? That sounds horrific.

    6. cindylouwho*

      We also have an iso vaporizer that has the wrong scavenger attached to it, and it just hasn’t been fixed for 5 years….

  12. theothermadeline*

    I was in grad school studying theater management on a very old campus. Due to the nature of theater and the number of venues we operated, we had a dedicated health and safety director. When we were finally allowed back into buildings in the fall of 2021, I was talking to this person near-constantly making rehearsal and performance protocols for us to re-start productions.

    The building with my office in it was slightly notorious for false smoke alarms, especially during load-in or load-out processes. One day, I was on a Zoom call in the office, and the fire alarm went off again. Forgetting that I wasn’t muted I looked to a coworker and said “Oh god, do you think we really need to leave?” and the health and safety director I was on Zoom with answered “YES!”

  13. Guest*

    Before my workplace moved, our building had craptastic security and our grandboss at the time refused to improve it. Multiple people, myself included, had our purses stolen and one day a bunch of equipment walked. I had to work alone at times and took to locking the crash bars on some doors that led to a shared hallway with a bicycle chain. Caught two guys rattling those doors one time and they took off running when they saw me.

    1. A Significant Tree*

      Better (appearing) security isn’t always the answer. I work in a secure building: guard at the one entry gate to the parking lot, badge entry or guards + metal detector + sign-in sheet with the sponsor’s name to get into the building…

      Story 1: after the fact, all of us with space in the building were notified by email that a non-badged, non-escorted individual was allowed to roam the first floor *filming* the area. TWICE. No follow-up on why that was allowed, who it was, what they were doing – nothing.

      Story 2: happened to a colleague – the building is still very much empty most of the time. Colleague (a woman) was on a floor that appeared to have only one other person (a man) working at the time. Colleague did a walk around the floor to stretch her legs and passed this person. A short time later, colleague stopped in the rest room and immediately was face to face with the man, who was exposing himself. Colleague rushed out of there, down the stairs, and reported it to the guards at the front desk. Who … did nothing except take the report. Colleague followed up with a call to Security who … implied that they couldn’t do anything because the individual may have been using their gender-preferred restroom, despite all evidence to the contrary (trans-people do not as a general rule bare themselves outside of a stall and specifically at another person).

    1. There's a podcast for that*

      If you have enjoyed I’d really recommend the final segment of the “Well there’s your problem” podcast (also on YouTube) which they call ‘Safety Third’. Eye-wateringly stressful stuff though.

  14. Miss Chanandler Bong*

    I worked at an open concept building. The central lobby was in the center of the building, and the upper floors were on the outside of the building, so you had overhangs over the lobby. The first year we were there, they decided to hang Christmas decorations over the rails above the lobby. The IT help desk, where you could walk up, was directly under an overhang. A Christmas ornament, one day while I was standing at the help desk, fell directly onto the (thankfully empty) chair next to me and shattered.

    They just swept up the pieces without checking that the other ornaments wouldn’t do the same thing. We had several falling ornaments.

  15. Dawn*

    I worked for a call centre which had a phone script agents were told that they had to read out if the building were on fire before we could disconnect the call and, you know, flee for our lives.

    Putting aside the fact that it existed at all, it was also not nearly as short as one would expect it to be…

    1. Dawn*

      Oh yes, I forgot. That fire safety plan, aside from the script (which I still think was the most egregious part) also had a flow chart that started with: “If a fire is found: Remain calm! Contact the Acting Manager and they will determine if: 1) Fire is controllable 2) Fire is uncontrollable 3) Remain Calm!!!”

      It talked about how important remaining calm was to saving lives in an emergency, but also stressed that you should never leave the building until instructed to do so by management.

      1. GirlBob*

        Oh no oh no oh no “go get a manager to see if this fire is actually a problem” oh no oh no

      2. Kate, short for Bob*

        Search “IT Crowd Moss Fire” on YouTube to see this exact scenario

        1. Dawn*

          “I’ll just put this over here with the rest of the fire.”

          Not that I’m real keen on supporting Graham Linehan’s work these days, but that scene was excellent.

      3. Artemesia*

        People are oddly passive in the face of danger. I have been in two situations where people just stood around while a fire burned asking each other ‘is that a fire?’ — in one case I grabbed an extinguisher and put it out — it was a brush fire behind the building I was living in.

        IN the second case a car was burning on our street and people just stood around; I called the fire department.

    2. purple monkey & bubblegum tree*

      I would be so horrified if a call center agent ever started reading me a script like that.

    3. Kara*

      Is it wrong that I’m giving them kudos for at least letting their employees hang up and leave? I feel like the bar here is so low that it’s embedded in the floor.

      1. Dawn*

        This might have been because we were in Canada, so they at least had to pay lip service to the concept of keeping their employees alive and well.

    4. I'm just here for the cats!*

      This reminds me of the 2nd call center type work i did after the horrible one at the top. Luckily this one took safety seriously. The fire alarm went off and we all evacuated. I was on a call with a client who was arguing with me and wanted a supervisor. I’m sure he thought this was some ploy, but I told him that the alarms were going off and I had his info and someone would call him back. he kept arguing with me and wanted to know when someone was going to call him. I said I don’t know, I guess as long as the building doesn’t burn down, it will be in a few hours.
      guess what, when the supervisor did call him back, he never answered!

      1. Dawn*

        I worked the “callback” side of things for quite a while at my last job and it is sooooo normal that people don’t answer after requesting a callback, or they answer and say “I never asked you to call me,” etc etc

        People used to call one of my employers and they were literally asking us for important information and when we called them back they’d assume we were telemarketers and do horrible things to us. Even though they’d reached out to us in the first place!

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Our drivers get this SO MUCH. A customer will request a call, and then not answer when the driver’s at the door with their food because “I didn’t know the number.” Dude, this was what you asked for!

    5. OrigCassandra*

      Where is RP Tyler when you need him? “Young MAN your CAR is on FIRE and you are still IN IT!”

      1. Good Enough For Government Work*

        I shall write to the Tadfield Advertiser about it immediately!

  16. Yes And*

    Minor earthquake in a city not accustomed to earthquakes. The general manager screams, “Everybody out now!” And we all dutifully troop down the 12 flights of stairs (because we know better than to get in an elevator during an earthquake). After about 20 minutes of milling about the sidewalk watching the city go about its business around us, we all turn around and troop back up the 12 flights of stairs (in case of aftershocks? idk).

    Some time that afternoon, it occurs to someone to google what you should do in an earthquake in an urban setting. They find an article that leads off with something to the effect of, first thing you do, DO NOT GO OUTSIDE.

    1. djx*


      Depends on how good the buildings are where you live. Where I live (NYC and probably most of the US), yeah, don’t got out. In places with poor buildings/poor code enforcement go outside and get away from tall buildings.

      1. not nice, don't care*

        In Seattle most of the earthquake retrofitting done on older buildings involves little metal brackets installed to keep suspended ceilings from coming down. Not much structural work at all. One of my former spouses worked for a company doing the retrofitting, so I know this to be true. So glad I moved to an area with very few tall buildings.

        1. dePizan*

          That’s terrifying. I’m in Oregon, and my work is in a historic building owned by the state. We just went through a major earthquake retrofitting where they put in base isolators and other substantial measures so now our building won’t (hopefully) collapse around our ears when the big quake comes….

        2. PresidentBob*

          I, too, live in Seattle and spent much of my life in Charleston, SC. Both of these cities are a combination of retrofitting/fixing buildings after a previous earthquake. Both of these cities will fall over when the next one happens because of it. Both are due for one.

          1. Artemesia*

            I was in an old building in Seattle in 1964 or so when there was a big earthquake — my book cases dumped their books, the chandelier in the staircase was swinging and bounding into the walls –you can believe we got our rears out of their and stood in the middle of the street.

          2. goddessoftransitory*

            I was in the Borders Books downtown when that last one hit–had to yell at the top of my lungs at the customers who immediately headed towards the glass doors and giant, plate glass windows to get the hell away from there and under something solid.

            1. Dogbythefire*

              I was working downtown (Seattle, right?) when plate glass did fall. I can’t remember exactly what building, but I think it was maybe the Borders building? Wasn’t it Pike and 4th or something? That was scary, but I don’t think anyone was hit.

      2. Orv*

        The problem with going outside is pieces of the building facade are likely to fall on you. Facade collapses are way more common than whole buildings coming down, at least in the US.

    2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      It really, really depends. Someplace with good earthquake codes? Stay put. A non-earthquake area? Maybe get clear. (I am in the DC area, and had moved from California shortly before the 2011 earthquake. I was working in Alexandria, VA at the time and my thought process was “Earthquake. Not big. No earthquake codes. I’m getting under my desk now”. The best part is I was on the phone with my wife who was in Maryland at the time, so I got to say “Oh wow, do you feel the earthquake?” just in time for her to say “earthquake? what…oh, earthquake!”

    3. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      Yes and no. Do not run outside while the earthquake is happening — shelter in place under a table/desk, away from windows, if the table moves, hold on and move with it. The old info about doorways being a safe spot has proven to be false. I’m in So. California so we just got a minor earthquake yesterday lol. Yesterday, no one evacuated. We are supposed to evacuate once the shaking has stopped — get to a safe location away from potential falling debris, trees and power lines.

    4. Cormorant*

      I mean, don’t go outside while things are still shaking, but earthquakes can cause fires due to broken gas lines and whatnot, and you never know if things are going to collapse later due to damage from the quake, so it’s safer to get clear of buildings once it’s safe to do so.

      I’m in California and we did earthquake drills in school regularly. It was always “under your desk until the shaking stops, then go outside until you’re given the all clear.”

      Of course, in reality, if it doesn’t shake hard enough to knock things off the shelves, we just kinda shrug and then go back to what we were doing.

    5. Ace in the Hole*

      Don’t go outside while it’s actually shaking – the most common injuries in earthquakes are from people falling down or tripping, second most common is being hit with debris like broken windows or objects falling off shelves. So during shaking, duck and cover.

      After it stops shaking, go outside ASAP until you can be sure the building is safe. It could have been structurally compromised by the shaking, meaning if there are aftershocks (second round of shaking) it could come down on you.

  17. AwesomeSauce*

    my husbands old employer refused to accommodate anyone during a state wide power outage and weather emergency, because SHE worked from her car (presumably on) in a closed garage (!!!!) so she expected all the lower level staff to do so as well.

    1. AwesomeSauce*

      They do work on computers, so electricity on some level is necessary for the job. This same company went back to mandatory in person work April 2020, when even some essential workers weren’t back in person yet, let alone jobs like theirs that can be done 100% remotely

        1. Zombeyonce*

          I’m just going to assume the fumes were affecting her management decisions and how she got some fresh air.

    2. Liane*

      Similar – but minus the CO poisoning risks – happened some years ago (pre-COVID) to a friend. At the time, Friend’s position was in-office. The state was shut down/no driving except emergency vehicles by the governor’s order. So of course the highest-ranking people at his office ordered “everyone [who isn’t us] must come in or be written up!” while they stayed home. I believe Friend stayed home anyway.
      Thankfully, the Sucky Bosses’ orders and write ups were cancelled by their bosses who worked elsewhere. Friend later told me that when his company did its annual December winnowing (so months later), Sucky Bosses were laid off.

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        That (the sick bosses getting laid off) is what I call a happy ending!

        1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

          That was supposed to be SUCKY bosses (stupid autocorrect)!

  18. Furious Giles*

    I don’t know if this qualifies as egregious, but I am hopping mad about it, so here we are:

    My building houses the materials (MT) offices, where my desk is, and the administrative (AD) offices. Once spring hits, it is never below 80 at my desk. Right now, my thermometer reads 84, and a couple of summers ago it hit 89 a couple of times. The AC just does not work well on the materials side of the building… but it works fine on the AD side (our lounge/bathrooms are on that side, so I routinely get up sweating and pass AD workers wearing sweaters). For four or five months out of the year, it is stultifying in my department, and what the MT staff gets is a shrug and a “Well, not much we can do about it, it’s cool everywhere else in the building.”

    Our satellite offices get closed for HVAC failures left, right, and center, but here at MT it simply does not happen.

    1. Percysowner*

      I worked in an old courthouse that had steam heat and no air conditioning. I was in the law library and we had the top floor to ourselves. The librarian told the county that books had to have temperature control and got them to install AC in our floor. We were so popular during the summer. This did not help the heating situation. In winter the heat was turned off over the weekend, but since steam heat takes a while to ramp up we would come into offices that were around 40 degrees on Mondays. The flip side of that was once the heating system DID ramp up, you couldn’t regulate the temperature. Tuesdays were getting comfortable, Wednesday mornings were really warm and by Wednesday afternoon we were throwing the windows open. To add to the problem, the handles to the steam radiators had broken off, so you could not turn them off by hand. My boss bought a pair of vice grips and on Wednesday mornings we would run around turning the radiators off using the vice grips. On Monday morning we ran around turning the radiators ON using the vice grips. Eventually the entire building was renovated, mostly because the weight of our books were too much for the floor to hold and we sued to get it fixed. For some reason, most of the courthouses in our state put the law libraries on the top floor and never even considered that books weigh a ton and stress the supports.

      I will also say the judges were so happy we sued. They had ceilings dropping plaster in the court rooms and were blowing fuses with the window air conditioners. The County Commissioners didn’t want to do anything because how could they explain to the taxpayers that millions of tax dollars would be spent to “pamper” judges and county employees. Then the big, mean library sued them and won and what could they do. They also decided that this meant they could finally renovate all the county buildings, because they sold the upgrades as being tied to the forced courthouse renovation.

        1. follow-up*

          OK, I see it says “the library sued” – but isn’t the library part of the county? How could it sue itself?

    2. Beth*

      My first job out of grad school, the exec offices had climate control. Our area did not. I wore a coat and winter hat and fingerless mitts at work, and kept an electric heater (strictly against code) at my feet.

      I do recall the one time I had to go to the offices to ask something, and the prez looked up at me as I entered and said “Oh, is it cold in your area?”

    3. Teach*

      Yes, isn’t that remarkable? I work in a school where our hallway regularly loses heat in the winter and AC in the summer…but the admin suite, which is on our hallway, is always nice and comfy! I’ve taken kids in there to warm them up.

  19. I'm a Pepper*

    When I taught high school, it was a year after our area had seen a terrible flood, so all the school buildings were under construction and we had to teach in these long “pod” buildings instead. They were mostly okay except that they were clearly not meant to be used as long and as intensely as we were using them. Some of them developed a weird mold or something similar, some classrooms had an intensely chemical smell, and many teachers started getting regular headaches or even getting sick more often. The school DID largely try to figure things out or move people around as this was happening, but it was such a mess. The pods deteriorated quite a lot in the time I was there – once I and half my students got trapped in our classroom for several hours because the door handle completely broke. We were debating evacuating through the windows while maintenance tried to get the door open. I do not miss the pods (or, frankly, working in a public school).

    1. Sam P.*

      I remember being in portable/pod classrooms a lot in middle school particularly. Those things always had the weirdest smells and horrible temperature control- I can’t imagine being stuck inside of one.

  20. I'm an NP now*

    I worked at an urgent care center with two bathrooms. One day the toilets backed up to the point that there was standing water (and whatever else) in the hallway – instead of closing the office for the day, or even telling patients we could not perform any tests that would require a urine sample, we were encouraged to walk patients down the block to the neighboring ER (which we were not affiliated with) and have them use the bathroom there to collect samples if needed.

    1. DramaQ*

      I had this happen at my former workplace. TWICE! The first time the city shut off the water with no indication of when it would be back on. We were told to keep working and use the gas station bathroom three blocks away if we needed it. The second time we had literal raw sewage backing up into our lab. We were told to keep working anyhow. It ended up with one person stuck in the lab area the rest of us stuck in our office area because otherwise we’d be tromping raw sewage all over the lab. The poor guy stuck in the lab area had to do all the work and was texting me for help. I decided when I was looking for a new job that a #1 dealbreaker on my list was going to be non-functioning toilets after that.

      1. Tris Prior*

        This happened to me too!

        Our toilets backed up – during a public event, no less – and it was determined that the plumbing in our small building had not been installed correctly. Like, basic drainage principles were not followed AT ALL.

        We continued the event (!!) and the company stayed open. We got to know the employees in the subway next door very well as we kept going in to use their bathroom for the next week. Fortunately they didn’t care if we did.

  21. We still use so much paper!*

    My ex-husband worked in a building that had been red tagged (no occupancy allowed) after an earthquake. His boss had bribed FEMA with office space to let them back in. The spouses found out when the boss let it slip at a company dinner. The silence was deafening and the dinner ended quickly.

    1. Kaden Lee*

      I’m impressed the bribe worked given FEMA knew how crappy the office conditions were since they were the ones able to lift the order.

  22. NameRequired*

    When I was in high school our drills were always 3rd period, which annoyed my math teacher so much that he sent us all to the corner for an active shooter drill and then kept teaching to a group of teenagers huddled on the floor.

    1. NothingIsLittle*

      I’m sorry, but that’s hilarious. As long as you knew it was a drill, I completely understand; it’s not like you’re doing anything productive with that time.

      1. NameRequired*

        In hindsight, the image of him continuing to explain complex calculus to a group of teenagers sitting on the floor is hilarious. At the time, we were just annoyed that we didn’t get a break from calculus even for active shooter drills.

      2. New Jack Karyn*

        Yeah, those drills are announced in advance. They don’t want kids freaking out over a drill.

    2. Tinkerbell*

      My senior year, we had bomb threats approximately every other morning for about a month. Some kid was leaving them as a message on the office answering machine and the secretary kept not finding them until about five minutes after first period started , but by the second week we all brought our keys, coats, backpacks, etc. to class because we knew we’d probably be sent to the gym for the next hour. (We were dubious that the bomb squad REALLY cleared the whole gym so quickly every morning…) Anyway, it eventually got to the point we begged our AP Biology teacher to just hold class in the corner of the gym instead, to save time.

  23. Awlbiste*

    I can’t describe the super egregious ones without outing myself (I think my boss reads this blog), but there have been SO MANY. I guess the most anonymous one is that he refused to enforce our state mask mandate during early COVID and when an employee tipped off our state OSHA, our boss lied about it. That was very frustrating. Employees have reported violations to state OSHA several times and nothing ever comes of it.

    1. Dawn*

      …. does he read AAM just so he can do the opposite of whatever Alison says, or..?

    2. JustaTech*

      If it makes you feel better, my VP did that too, so there’s more than one of them out there, so it’s clearly not *you* writing in to AAM, it’s someone else.

  24. HSE Compliance*

    Oh good, my favorite topic!!!

    1. Caught the facilities team storing ammonia and bleach together in a cabinet, mostly uncapped and jauntily stacked. Several times. Also in a flammables cabinet, which is not where they needed to be either.

    2. Had an intern take a nap behind pallets in a semi trailer parked at a dock, where we were going to start loading more pallets.

    3. Audited a facility that was using the “sniff check” to check for a chlorine leak instead of the standard ammonia test.

    4. Audited a facility where they had electric carts (on a track, like a tram car thing) moving material and they had a person welding on the line without any sort of barrier, LOTO, or anything.

    5. Audited a facility that made RVs, where they were coating sheets of plywood with glue by standing on the lip of the tank and dropping in sheets…. by hand. Shirtless, mind you.

    6. Multiple instances of people refusing to leave their desk for severe weather, fire, etc. drills (that were not announced, they just said feck it for whatever reason). And then got crabby when they got verbal discipline.

    7. The security desk sent away someone who wandered into work incredibly drunk…. not by calling them a taxi home or anything, just let them leave in their own vehicle.

    8. At a large heavy manufacturing facility with heavy parts, we had someone decide at their workstation on the floor that their feet were too hot and they took off their steel toe boots to walk around in their socks.

    9. While using a multiton crane hoist, got into a fistfight with another employee and left the hoist in a huff with the load attached and suspended.

    10. Got confused and drank disinfectant out of the dispenser thinking it was water (??? it was labeled??? and also purple??? and there was an actual water sink next to it???). Did not get help or let anyone know until quite some time later when complaining of a stomachache.

    I could go on for a very, very long time.

      1. HSE Compliance*

        Yup!! Came in to the HSE office like 2? 3? hours later saying he had a stomachache and wasn’t sure why. Standard question is to ask what they’ve ate or drank that day and his description of what he drank out of (by MOUTH, by the way – direct on the spigot itself) tipped us off.

    1. whimbrel*

      “jauntily stacked” has me rolling, thank you for that!

      The second one makes me think of Staplerfahrer Klaus…

        1. HSE Compliance*

          This person was also walking around on grating for this. I was impressed that walking around on grating was more comfortable for them than wearing their safety shoes.

    2. CDL Anon*

      1 reminds me of our prior “flammables cabinet” which was just a plain cabinet with a “Flammable” sign taped to the front of it. Apparently the prior safety director had given this the a-okay. (We have an actual flam locker now, thankfully.)

      Since we’re a CDL training school, 2 is an absolute Y I K E S from me.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        I only know CDL as California Drivers License….?

        1. Hlao-roo*

          I think in this context is “commercial driver’s license” and CDL Anon has a higher appreciation for how safe/unsafe loading pallets into a semi trailer is than the average person.

      2. HSE Compliance*

        We had a CDL driver forget to use a brake. Not the parking brake – which wasn’t used either – but like….. not put in park? somehow? and let the trailer go across the public road and hit another business’s sign. This was for some reason a very nonchalant report.

    3. Former EHSS "lead" aka "Ignored"*

      Yes. This is the content I came here for. I too spent some time as an EHSS auditor / consultant. When you get us together over a couple of drinks (alcoholic or NA, NBD)… you can learn a lot about what NOT to do!!

      1. HSE Compliance*

        Not only am I active HSE (in the field for about 10 years), prior to that I did unsafe housing inspections for complaints like hoarding, drugs, lack of sanitary systems, etc.

        I have so, so many stories.

    4. HSE Compliance*

      Oh! Another fun one! At an ethanol facility, when I was doing a spot check with operations during a shutdown cleaning, discovered that the common hazing activity was to send new employees into the distillation column without ventilating, to see how long it would take them to get (in essence) drunk and stumble back out.

      People got fired that day.

    5. Recovering EHS Director*

      Reading just a few of these made me want to go lie down in a cool place and think happy thoughts. Ye gods.

    6. Nina*

      ohhhhh my god #1
      I used to be the HS rep and on-site chemist for a [industry] test site. Successfully trained the test techs to come and ask me before mixing chemicals together for the first time. “Hey Nina can we use isopropanol to clean the high-test peroxide storage container just before we put peroxide in it?” No, that’s an alcohol, no alcohols in the HTP, you already know this. “Hey Nina can we use acetone then, that’s less alcohol-y.”
      Acetone + HTP = TATP, a sensitive contact explosive.

    7. Katie Impact*

      There’s a reason there are very detailed lists of what you’re not supposed to do when storing hazardous chemicals, and the reason is that people keep doing the things you’re not supposed to do.

      I worked in a university science lab back in grad school, and during a routine cleanup we found a lidless plastic tub containing multiple kilograms of potassium cyanide in the back of a cabinet where all kinds of other chemicals were stored. I’m not sure what anyone in the lab was doing with that much cyanide in the first place, but it’s definitely not something you want to keep in the same place you keep any kind of acid, unless you’re trying to create poison gas. Words were exchanged and the tub was swiftly removed.

      1. Tinkerbell*

        The chemistry teacher at my high school retired after 30+ years of teaching. He did not clean out his storage cabinets first. My little sister got to do an “extra credit project” involving going through the cabinets and identifying/sorting all the contents. Many were various flasks/containers of unlabeled or improperly labeled substances. She found a vial of mercury, a lump of sodium, and a few other lovely things that were generally not standard in US high schools by the late 90s :-P Seems to me this should have been a task NOT left up to a 17yo, especially since identifying some of the substances did involve a fair amount of chemistry, but she had a blast.

        1. mymotherwasahamster*

          I’m really glad you (apparently) don’t mean that ending literally. ;)

        2. Music With Rocks In*

          My high school science told us a horror story of discovering an old storage cabinet full of corroding containers and improperly stored chemicals. The bomb squad was called, apparently, and said some of it was volatile enough to take out a chunk of the school if mixed/agitated.

          They cleaned it out; the 2001 Nisqually earthquake hit a few weeks later.

    8. Sharp-dressed Boston Terrier*

      Hopefully someone can explain to me the apparent contradiction between #1 and #3 before the replies are shut down? Combining bleach and ammonia is dangerous (#1), but that’s exactly what you need to do to detect a chlorine leak (#3)? I am slightly confused.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        I’m not an expert by any means about how to properly check for a chlorine leak, but I think the difference between “uncapped and jauntily stacked” bottles of bleach and ammonia and “test for chlorine leak using ammonia” is that in item #1, the bleach and ammonia are in danger of combining in uncontrolled quantities, at any time. People could be exposed to dangerous amounts of toxic gases without warning.

        For a chlorine leak check, a “sniff test” sounds like a bad idea to me because (1) it’s unreliable and (2) it could be dangerous for the person doing the sniffing. The standard ammonia test probably involves safety precautions like using a small, regulated amount of ammonia, venting the area, wearing PPE (respirators/gas masks/whatever level of protection is appropriate). Again, I don’t know what the “standard ammonia test” actually looks like, but these are my guesses about what makes it a better/safer situation than a “sniff test” and than leaving bottles of ammonia and bleach in danger of mixing.

      2. HSE Compliance*

        A controlled reaction is much more appropriate than an uncontrolled reaction – the ammonia check for chlorine is “poofing” a very small amount of ammonia to Cl2, which creates a white poof as a visual check.

        Combining bleach (which is NaOCl, not Cl2) and ammonia will create chloramine fumes, which in bulk (i.e. in storage containers) can be deadly.

      3. Ace in the Hole*

        Chlorine bleach and ammonia will react with each other to produce chloramine gas, which is irritating and can be toxic when the concentration is high enough. It’s not dangerous for a few drops to mix, but having gallons of it in uncapped containers stored together could cause significant quantities to mix and make quite a bit of gas.

        Ammonia is also used to detect chlorine gas leaks specifically because it reacts with chlorine. You puff ammonia vapor over the area you’re checking. If chlorine is present, it will create a white mist. The quantities involved are so tiny it’s not dangerous. Plus, chlorine gas is just as deadly as chloramine – so the leak you’re checking for is more dangerous than the byproduct.

  25. not owen wilson*

    I’m an engineer, and my first job was doing nuclear research. I was using a hammer and a screwdriver to break a fused salt out of a crucible when the head of the hammer flew off. I asked my coworker if there was another hammer in the glovebox and he went, “Use a wrench?” And so I finished chipping this salt out by banging on a screwdriver with a wrench. We also had a filing cabinet full of uranium salts and another one full of plutonium salts.

      1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

        Can you explain why? I know zero and all I heard is salt so …


        1. not owen wilson*

          In chemistry terms a salt is a type of chemical compound! NaCl is table salt, for example. I mainly worked with UF4.

    1. not owen wilson*

      Oh I have another one from this job! I started on site full time in summer 2020, so my online training record looked fabulous and my irl training was…. spotty. I was trying to break beryllium fluoride out of a crucible using a mortar and pestle, and hit my hand instead of the small crucible. I split my glovebox glove, and I was working in a radioactive material box. It was 4:30 pm on a Friday, so I taped over the hole, rolled up the glove, and marked it out of use. Left the lab after surveying out (you had to use a hand and foot monitor to check for radiation every time you’d enter and exit the lab) and 15 minutes later Health Physics came barreling into my office. That’s how I found out you were supposed to call them and wait in the lab so they could check you and the area for radioactivity! I was totally fine luckily, but I did have to give them a snot sample and they surveyed me multiple times.

      At this same job, they also had me decontaminate a glovebox that had been used for cadmium experiments in the 80s — literally boiling kilogram quantities of it, it was evaporated on every surface inside. I went at it, and then I found out they’d recently decontaminated a similar box across the hall — except they had industrial hygenists and professionals do that one, not a 21 year old with a bachelors.

    2. cindylouwho*

      I used to work in a lab that dealt with radioactive materials. Someone spilled Cesium on the ground and never told anyone. A year later someone pointed a Geiger counter at the ground for fun and it LIT UP. The research safety people got called, a bunch of people have to do yearly medical checks now, and we all got exposed to unsafe high levels of radiation for a year….

  26. AnonForThis*

    TW: school shooter threat

    Sad to say that I work in a school and there was a call- only a prank call, thank god- that a shooter was on his way down the street with his AR15. I was not there that day, and luckily none of our students were either because we were on break. The few staff members in the building immediately fled and called the police. Police were on the scene in a few minutes, call was traced (no one found, unfortunately, but confirmed to be out of state), superintendent was informed, principal sent a message of support to the affected staff, etc.. All’s well that ends well. However…I went to work the next day and had no idea that any of this had happened; no school-wide or district-wide memo was sent. There was only 1 facilities worker besides me in the whole building, and only the emergency lights on. We have no security guards during break, but office admin like me aren’t allowed to work remotely even when the building is otherwise closed. I found out a week later what had happened and found it pretty egregious that 1) I wasn’t informed and 2) office admin weren’t excused from in-person work that week in an abundance of caution.

    1. djx*

      My boy’s middle school is pretty good. They lost power and there was smoke earlier this school year, so they all evacuated to the playground/yards. It was a nice day so they kept the kids outside till it was safe to return and pick up stuff. Then because kids were all hyped up from hours outside, cancelled teaching and just had a giant play date in the yard till the end of the day. Parents were told to not come to try to get their kids – all staff were busy and could not deal with the distractions.

      1. AnonForThis*

        I’ve worked at a few schools and always found that teachers know when to cut their losses. I’m glad they found a way to distract the kids during a stressful moment!

        1. djx*

          One other thing – the teachers were yelling “This is not a drill” as they got the kids out, and the kids took it more seriously that usual. A few were crying, but listened.

          The incident got on the news – a news helicopter was hovering over the building and yard for a while.

    2. EvilQueenRegina*

      My neighbour works at our local railway station, and came into work one morning just before Christmas to find out someone had broken in and trashed the place. She rang her head office and whoever took the call said “Oh yes, we’ve been expecting you to ring up about that.” She was not happy that they’d already known about it and let her walk into that with no warning.

      1. AnonForThis*

        That’s so horrible! What a stressful thing to “discover.” I’d probably have called the police, too, and I imagine they would just say “Again??”

  27. CreepyPaper*

    Not me but Mr Creeps (my husband) is from Eastern Europe and let’s just say the pictures you’ve seen online of forklifts lifting forklifts and people standing on ladders over hundreds of foot drops are not an exaggeration!

    He works as a transport manager for a big freight company now with proper safety regulations, but how he and his colleagues did not pass away in their younger years is miraculous to me.

    1. Oh Yes*

      My boss at my last job showed me a cell phone pic of a forklift lifting a scissor lift at manufacturing plant in the Detroit, Michigan area to get at something on the outside wall of the building. It was wild.

    2. SuperNova*

      I have a coworker from eastern Europe and the stories he tells about work! Particularly during the communist years. One great one was him (because he is small) shimmying behind a giant oven in some kind of foundry. Ridiculously hot back there. They tied a rope to him and told him to talk or sing the whole time he was back there. If he stopped they would assume he had passed out and drag him out with the rope.

  28. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

    Hydrofluoric acid. HF is one of the nastier chemicals because it burns more from the inside out by bonding to the calcium in your body. You can get a very damaging and potentially lethal burn without realizing the initial severity. Industrial HF is supposed to be stored in secondary containment cabinets with leak detection

    I walked into the room where my chemicals were stored. My department used primarily solvents. Exposure could lead to bad headaches and potentially after years and years of exposure liver damage. And there in the middle of my safe chemical room was an unshielded OPEN 55 gallon drum of 100:1 HF.

    I walked out and alerted safety and nobody seemed to think it was a big deal.

    This was one of many reasons I left that job after only a few months

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      Two more things about HF, it is very good at munching on glass, so must be stored in plastic. (not sure about metal).

      I first learned about it from Star Trek, TOS. (The Horta episode).

      At one job, I had to weigh it out so that it could be used to etch circuit boards in specific, precise places.

    2. RabbitRabbit*

      What. WHAT.

      I was shocked that I found an old ground-glass-stoppered bottle containing maybe a half cup of liquid mercury in a cabinet in our office’s conference room (this was in a clinic building – the room used to be some kind of imaging/x-ray area judging by the metal plate running down the center of the wooden doors).

      That is… wow. That’s insanity.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        Forgot to add: For the hidden bottle of mercury, I called the safety department, who asked for a description of the location, containment (nicely sealed bottle), and volume of the stuff, and came by that day to whisk it away. IIRC they thought it might have been used for some kind of Rather Old imaging, perhaps in picture development or something similar.

        1. LabSnep*

          I also found a bottle of mercury once, but in a lab.

          Nobody had cleaned under that sink in DECADES and nobody knew how long it had been there.

          Materials Management came and took it away, as well as the bottle of NaOH that had been there so long that the lid was crusted permanently on so we couldn’t discard it any other way.

          1. Ink*

            Well now next time I find something weird or gross cleaning under my plain old kitchen sink I’ll have some perspective! X’D

        2. AngryOctopus*

          My first job was in an older building. We got dinged for excessive mercury in the wastestreams. Safety combed all workers up and down and couldn’t find the source–they then found out that there was mercury in a lot of the (very old) sink traps, probably from before 1980, and for whatever reason we were all running enough water to dislodge it now. It was quite a cleanup, and quite a lesson in “look what used to be acceptable in this space!” for everyone.

        3. canuckian*

          When I was in grade 7 science, we actually played with mercury (I don’t remember why just that we had it in our science lab class) we probably weren’t supposed to touch it, but we did. This woulda been 83-84ish. I kept a small ball of it (maybe 5mm wide, if that?) in a little plastic tube for a few years…honestly not sure what happened to it, probably got thrown in the garbage….

      2. Jack Russell Terrier*

        My friend prosecuted hate crimes for the DOJ and always had crazy stories. Someone was upset that Cleveland’s ‘Slavtown’ was getting less Slavish. They wanted an interracial couple out. That couple found their children playing with mercury on their porch.

        Yup – a hate crime perpetrated using mercury.

        There’s a very short article you can find a bit more if if you type in into google cleveland slav hate crime

      3. SuperNova*

        OMG, I found the exact same thing on a shelf in a house I moved into! The owner knew it was there and said it had been there when he bought the house. He just left it because he didn’t know what to do with it. I took it to the Haz Waste place in my city, and they looked at like I had 3 heads when I handed it to them. “What are we supposed to do with that?”

        1. Ace in the Hole*

          I’m surprised they were surprised. I’ve worked at that sort of facility… bottles of elemental mercury aren’t an everyday thing, but they’re not super rare either. We got at least a few every year. We handled it like everything else – packed it up to DOT standards and shipped it to a disposal facility.

    3. CoffeeIsMyFriend*

      yikes. having worked in labs I’ve been browsing this post for Dangerous chemical stories

    4. Bruce*

      I changed my career early on to avoid working with HF and any other wet chemicals. My early mentor before that change did not believe in gloves because he said he was careful never to spill anything on the bottles. My thought was “OK, you are careful but what about the other 5 people that use this wet chemistry bench?” We were not working in the fab, just doing failure analysis work on a case by case basis… but I had a bad history with hands on chemistry!

      1. Bruce*

        To be clear, the career change was a good step and there was a lot more to recommend it than avoiding working with HF, but that part of my original job really gave me the willies!

    5. coachfitz13*

      Literally the stuff Walter White used to dispose of his enemies in Breaking Bad.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        It doesn’t actually work that way though. It’s much more terrifying. But it won’t dissolve a body or a bathtub.

        1. Bruce*

          Yes, HF gets on your skin and you don’t feel any pain… until you do! like I said, gave me the willies!

          1. AngryOctopus*

            Oh yes. That was one thing I’d never want to work with. I did have to use picric acid for an assay a LONG time ago–all sorts of warnings about how you can’t let it dry out on the jar mouth, because it’s a contact explosive and screwing the lid off/on would be enough to trigger it. That made me paranoid enough!

    6. Nesprin*

      Okay you win.

      “unshielded OPEN 55 gallon drum of 100:1 HF” is about as awful as things could get short of that freezer at the NIH where they found viable smallpox last year, or the pits at the Hanford nuclear site.

      PS: please check out Derek Lowe’s blog “in the pipeline” on chlorine trifluoride.

      1. metadata minion*

        Wait, they found MORE smallpox?? I thought that was back in about 2015.

    7. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      I said “Oh. Oh no.” after the first two words, and it just kept getting worse.

    8. Swix*

      I initially misread the chemical as hydrogen fluoride (which turns to hydrofluoric acid when dissolved in water) and had flashbacks to the training I had to do to even be allowed near the unit where they made it.

      Concentrate hydrogen fluoride can soak through your skin and muscles and start a reaction that damages your bones, in addition to turning into hydrofluoric acid. Was very glad I never had to go into that area and that it never had any releases while I was there. (It was a big plant, and all open air.)

    9. Ace in the Hole*


      I work in hazwaste disposal. I’m buddies with the local hazmat response team. HF is one of the few chemicals I’ve gotten my hands on that made the captain of the hazmat team say “holy shit, get that away from me.” And that was only about 500 ml of 47% HF solution.

      Just for kicks… other chemicals on the hazmat team’s “holy shit list” include: zinc phosphide, calcium cyanide, picric acid. Every single one of these was brought to us from a residential source. Meaning someone had it in their house.

  29. bamcheeks*

    Office-based, and very boring– there’s someone standing on a wheeled chair to put Christmas decorations up every year but so far nobody has fallen off. And back when I was waitressing I walked into the kitchen to find the 15 year old in charge and everyone else outside watching the 14yo try weed for the first time— but really, pretty standard stuff.

    1. OtterB*

      My SIL was an occupational health nurse for a large corporation until she retired a few years ago. She said the two most common causes of injuries she dealt with were (a) slicing bagels, and (b) standing on a wheeled chair for something.

      1. ferrina*

        I regularly stood on wheeled chairs to hang decorations. A couple times I stood on the arms of the wheeled chair to get extra height.

        This ended when the office manager caught me and yelled at me for about 10 minutes straight, threatening to ban me from decorating if she ever saw me do that again. She put the righteous fear into me (she was also the best office manager ever!).

      2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        My MIL once had to go to the ER (on the morning of December 24) with a bagel slicing injury. The doctor who stitched her up said that the most common hand injuries he saw were from slicing bagels or avocados. (She did not think it was funny when we gave her a bagel slicer for Christmas the next year!)

      3. bamcheeks*

        Why are bagels more dangerous than any other bread bun? Genuine question, I’m intrigued!

        1. Nesprin*

          Because people hold them in between thumb and fingers (making hand like a c shape) and cut using a bread knife towards those delicate and important structures in the thumb webbing and the palm of the hand. They’re also pretty hard so you cut with sawing motions and some force.

          Most other bread things you cut towards a cutting board and away from a hand.

        2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          The harder crust means it takes more pressure, and the shape means both people are more likely to hold it in their hand and slice downward towards the hand, and more likely for knife or hand to slip.

        3. Black Horse*

          I can tell you how I sliced my thumb cutting a bagel: they’re tougher than most bread, and the surface is both rounded and sorta smooth. The serrated knife slipped right off.

          I absolutely should have gotten stitches, but had no one to watch the 3 under 6 kiddos and a high deductible for my insurance.

          We did purchase a bagel slicer within the week though.

        4. Cardboard Marmalade*

          Others have mentioned that bagels are tougher/smoother on the outside than most other breads, and just in the interest of pure nerdiness I want to add that this is because of the way they are made, which involves a step of dunking the formed, unbaked bagels in boiling water before they then get baked in the oven. It creates that smooth, almost leathery skin that a regular bread knife can just slide right off.

    2. BryOake*

      That second one made me laugh out loud. Objectively, encouraging a child to do drugs is terrible…but the mental image of a bunch of adults cheering on an eighth grader who doesn’t know how to smoke a blunt is hilarious.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I mean, the rest of the kitchen staff were 16-17, and the front of house staff were only 18-19. no fully formed frontal lobes were involved in the decision-making process at any stage.

    3. Artifical morning person*

      Yes to standing on the wheelie chair… but they’re not hanging decorations, they’re changing fluorescent light bulbs (which shatter explosively if dropped)… and they’re not in an office building, but on a ship in the middle of the ocean.

    4. Wolf*

      I once broke my arm when I was standing on a wheeled chair. But I was 11 years old, and I’d expect adults to be a tiny bit smarter than that.

  30. SquarePizza*

    Back when I worked foodservice in high school, it was at an event facility that catered to corporate picnics/outings. The only operational problem we consistently had was that the larger events would simply generate more trash than our dumpsters could handle. So like 1-3 times a year we had nowhere for the trash to go.

    One year, we just duct-taped a guy into a trash bag suit (he volunteered), and hoisted him up into the dumpsters to Macho Man the trash down and create more room. Second year, the getup was improved with an army surplus gas mask to protect the head from the smell/garbage juice. It became kind of a tradition. Trash-stomper was an honored position.

    This was a bad idea for so many reasons, not the least of which was strapping on a black trash bag outfit in the height of summer.

    Lesson: teenage boys are idiots, even if they’re all-in on doing a good job. ESPECIALLY then.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      Teenage boys are full of nonsense. Most of them grow out of it most of the way, but while teenagers? Full of nonsense.

  31. EngGirl*

    I worked at a summer camp with no real buildings, mainly just sports fields and a pavilion with a roof but no walls. It was a day camp at a public park, so no one was staying overnight or anything, but they would not close for ANYTHING.

    It’s going to be 100+ degrees today with a heat index putting it at 115? Keep em under the pavilion and make sure everyone hydrates.

    There’s a thunderstorm and a tornado warning? Keep everyone under cover. Just ignore the rain flying through the because there are no walls.

    The camp was meant to be incredibly cheap childcare for families that needed it, and I was 18 and didn’t question it, but in retrospect it was kind of nuts especially considering the staff was like 6 18-22 year olds all of whom (myself included) would have been useless in an emergency.

    1. Former EHSS "lead" aka "Ignored"*

      And this is why I pay for quality camps that are certified and insured and …
      Glad everyone lived to tell the tale!
      Wish we cared about kids and working parents more!

  32. Another Kate*

    15 years or so ago, Spouse was working at a location that had been a site of a few minor Civil War battles. Construction workers on-site found live ordnance (think large unexploded cannonballs). While the bomb squad did their thing, the entire staff was herded into the nearby cafeteria…which was surrounded by floor-to-ceiling glass windows on three sides.

    1. Dawn*

      Juuuuuuuust for the record, cannonballs don’t have an explosive charge. They can’t be unexploded because they don’t explode. They’re kinetic only.

      1. Bruce*

        If you are going to nitpick someone’s story: in the Civil War there were plenty of explosive shells being used, especially with mortars

        1. Dawn*

          I did talk to a friend who is an expert on war history and he did correct me, and I was just on my way back to write my mea culpa, so thank you, acknowledged.

          In my defense: they weren’t (to his knowledge, at least,) percussive explosives; they were fused powder shells and assuming the powder were still dry at all it would require a mighty effort to ignite one.

          1. Bruce*

            Agreed, it’s not likely an old mortar bomb would blow up, but it would be pretty bad if they did! Sorry if my response was snarky, have a nice day!

          2. Missa Brevis*

            I also had a moment of ‘hold on a second, wouldn’t civil war cannon balls be solid shot?’, and now I’ve gone down a rabbit hole about ordnance in the American Civil War.

            It looks like they mostly used time-fused powder shells, but percussion-fuse shells have also been recorded.

            Ref: https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/tr/pdf/ADA638753.pdf

        1. Dawn*

          In my defense, a bomb and a cannonball are two different things.

          Also as a Canadian I don’t spend a whole lot of time analyzing the American national anthem.

        2. metadata minion*

          The rockets’ red glare. If the ramparts are glowing red, your fort is on fire.

      2. Kara*

        Most were, but there were at least some explosive cannonballs in use. In fact, i believe a Sam White was killed in 2008 when a Civil War cannonball he was restoring exploded somehow. The explosion was powerful enough that a piece of shrapnel landed a quarter mile away.

  33. Jennifer Strange*

    Many moons ago I worked at a country club as a waitress and bartender. Worst job of my life. I would work full day shifts (6:30am to 6:30pm) by myself, or the owners would come in with friends before closing and tell me it was okay for me to stay late for them (as though it was a privilege. One time I felt light-headed and thought I was going to faint. A co-worker told me I was pale as a sheet. The owner’s response was “But you can still work the event tonight, right?”.

    Anyway, one time after I locked up (by myself) I was walking through the kitchen and noticed that not only had one of the burners been left on, but a dish towel was sitting no more than half a foot from it. I think I stood there looking at it for a solid five minutes before begrudgingly turning the burner off.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      That sounds like an insurance fraud attempt. They would probably have blamed you too!

  34. Lab worker*

    I used to work at an overcrowded lab. There were lit, unattended Bunsen burners at the ends of the benches (right where your elbow goes when you walk down the aisle).

    Most labs I’ve worked in have been great about safety culture, though.

    1. Milo*

      I worked with a guy who one day lit a whole row of bunsen burners just because he felt cold.

      we didn’t need flame for anything in that lab anymore. All the burners and lighters were quietly removed.

  35. Ms. Teacher*

    I am a middle school teacher. At a school I previously worked at, in an area with a lot of gang activity (I have had multiple former students shot and killed, it’s a school with a lot of trauma around gun violence) a student brought a gun to school – admin was notified and did absolutely nothing. Didn’t call a code red, didn’t call the police. When confronted about this (because all the teachers heard about it), they said they wouldn’t discuss the issue because they thought no one was in danger but confirmed there was a gun brought to campus. They then told us that if we see the student (who was expelled) on campus to notify them. But also said they couldn’t tell us which student it was…

    1. Observer*

      a student brought a gun to school – admin was notified and did absolutely nothing

      That’s a shockingly common response. I *really* don’t get it!

      It made me think of the 6yo who shot his teacher. The school knew he had a gun and did nothing about it….

  36. Collarbone High*

    I used to work a 4 pm-midnight shift as a newspaper copy editor. One night around 9 pm, everyone suddenly developed a severe headache and started feeling nauseated and sluggish. Then we heard a scream from the mezzanine above our work area and looked up to find a cleaning crew in respirators and hazard suits. They yelled down that no one was supposed to be there because they were polishing brass, and inhaling the vapors was dangerous. There were no windows and no real way to mitigate what had already happened, and people were ill for the rest of the night.

    Our boss confronted the office manager about it the next day and the response was “oh, we forgot about you guys.”

  37. SMH*

    Trying to get people to realise that no, you’re not allowed to eat or wear sandals in a workshop environment is one of the most thankless tasks ever. Like it’s for *your* benefit to not be poisoned or injured??

    1. AngryOctopus*

      People get really angry when you tell them you have to wear closed toed shoes in the lab. Listen, I get it, my feet get hot too. So I commute in flip flops, and then I CHANGE MY SHOES to lab appropriate shoes!!! Pretty sure if you dropped one of the 4L glass bottles of water on your foot, you’d get why your toes have to be covered!

      1. DannyG*

        Day 1 of the sterile procedures class I taught I would do a demo of various sharps dropped onto various shoe types. The students got the point quickly. That’s why I required leather, closed toe shoes.

    2. Seven If You Count Bad John*

      I know of at least one coworker who defied the no-flip-flops rule in a call center, and ended up getting injured in pretty much a textbook example of why we had that rule in an office environment. I had no sympathy.

    3. JustaTech*

      I remember once in college watching a classmate who was headed to the metal show to do some work. She was wearing platform sandals, very short shorts and a bandana top (the kind with no back and lots of ties).
      10 minutes later she came stomping back, having been sent back to her dorm to change into “not the “what not to wear” poster!”

    4. Cat*

      Had to read that one again as the first time my brain parsed it as “eat or wear” sandals rather than eat, or wear sandals

      1. allathian*

        Reminds me of the sign in a college cafeteria: “Shoes are required to eat in the cafeteria.” Penciled underneath: “Socks can eat anywhere they want.”

  38. Emmers*

    I got stranded with my 1 year old daughter in a blizzard and had to walk an hour home in my rothy flats carrying her because my educational director wouldn’t call off the final exams for a med school course. Worst day of my life and lots of people had similar stories (yes PNW) of that day but there was absolutely nothing done.

    1. not nice, don't care*

      Not sure if it was the same blizzard, but I recall walking for hours to get home after leaving the car of the person I was riding with who stayed stuck in traffic for longer than it took me to walk home. I remember seeing women in heels pushing strollers, carrying giant bags etc abandoning cars on the same road (in West Seattle).

    2. Magc*

      December 1990 in Seattle?

      The team I was on had a weekly meeting Mondays at 1; the director of the department stuck his head in around 2 to let us know that traffic was looking bad and people could leave if they wanted. My boss at the time lived a short walk from the office and glared at all of us, so only one woman got up; it took her 3+ hours for a commute normally no more than 45 minutes.

      I was fortunate enough not to have kids yet and to only live 2.5 miles away, but it still took 2+ hours to get home. The first mile was via car and took over an hour, at which point I parked to walk the rest of the way. Fortunately, I’d worn flat boots that were comfortably taller than the snow was at that point. I remember being amazed by the lightning & thunder while walking through falling snow.

      My spouse worked in the SoDo area (south of downtown), and volunteered to take a co-worker home (she’d ridden a bike into work that morning). I think it took them 2.5 hours to get the south edge of downtown (about 2.5 miles — they had to stop for gas along the way), and when a parking spot opened up right outside a popular bar / restaurant, they saw it as a sign that they should get dinner. I was home by then and very relieved to hear that they were fine; I think it was after 11 by the time he arrived home.

      1. not nice, don't care*

        Thunder snow. I only had to go from Georgetown to High Point, but what a trip.

    3. Spero*

      This is actually a terror of mine and when I had a baby I specifically chose my daycare based on proximity to my work so I would be able to get to her and get her out if there was a road-disabling disaster. Even though she would probably be safer at daycare than with me on the road in a disaster, I couldn’t imagine not being able to get to her.

    4. Music With Rocks In*

      Was this early 2000s Seattle? I got stranded at my library job and a coworker kindly drove me south out of the valley we worked in because all the buses going north towards my house couldn’t handle the snow.

      1. Anon Librarian*

        2000s Seattle library worker here. Was that Snowpocalypse 2008? That was the year no branches were within walking distance of my apt so I still had to drive to my snow branch. Down a loooooong hill.

  39. Ms. Yvonne*

    I used to climb out of a second storey bathroom window, set up a ladder, and change the marquee film titles at a movie theatre. This was okay when it was summer or there was deep enough snow (the ladder didn’t wiggle around), but one time I was on the marquee and it was pure ice, so the ladder was slowly drifting edge ward as the strong arctic wind blew down the street. After that I tossed a rubberized mat out the window and set the ladder up on that on icy days. I was just barely, barely tall enough to reach the top row of letters, which required I was at the last usable step of the ladder and although am okay with heights (but perhaps should not have been okay with the potential for a broken neck), it made me jittery to have to reach the beginning and ends of words by putting the ladder close to the edge (you could stand in the middle and try shoving letters along, but it did not always work). It was very hard to do – replacing the letters – on cold days, fingers were frozen. I never got any mild electric shocks on rainy days, but others did.

    1. Former ehss consultant*

      There is a actually a ladder safety certification course through OSHA and I’m sorry you had a horrible manager

  40. Peanut Hamper*

    I was the building representative (i.e., shop steward) for our middle school building when one of our 8th grade English teachers came to me and said she found live ammunition on the floor in the back of her classroom after school one day, bagged it up, and took it to our principal. She had not heard a thing in the two weeks since, and was asking me to look into it.

    So I went and asked our building principal. She told me she had nothing to report yet and would let me know.

    At our next staff meeting a couple of weeks later, the principal announced that a rumor had been going around saying that someone had found live ammunition in the building, and that this rumor was false, no ammunition had been found, and that we were not to discuss it further or risk being written up for spreading false and malicious information about the school.

    Both that English teacher and I left at the end of that school year. She left for another district and I left for another field entirely.

    1. Ms. Elaneous*

      Peanut, I would absolutely support you outing the name of that school system.

      My lesson from this is
      2. Photograph everything.
      1. Call the press (first).

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        If you’ve eaten breakfast cereal in the United States, I’m sure you are familiar with this small midwestern city between Chicago and Detroit that is the home of two major cereal manufacturers.

        That entire district has half the school population now that it did when I was teaching there. I don’t have to wonder why.

  41. Space Coyote*

    This is not particularly serious (and definitely more a case of poor personal judgment than workplace carelessness in particular), but I still kind of laugh thinking about it, so:

    Our maintenance office at an old job was sort of shoddily constructed and we had insect problems, mostly consisting of (very) large house centipedes that would appear on the walls, hang out for a while, then disappear back to the shadows. I was sitting at my desk one morning when Frank, one of the maintenance supervisors, came back and pointed out one on the wall behind me. I was used to them at that point and didn’t much care, but he was determined to catch and kill it. It was high up, near the junction of the wall and ceiling. Frank proceeded to get a chair from a nearly office and climb up onto it to swat at the centipede with his clipboard.

    Yeah, he swatted it. And it fell directly onto his face, at which point he made a sort of shrieking sound and ALMOST fell off the chair. Luckily he caught himself and there were no injuries or casualties (including the centipede, which scuttled away to parts unknown). Soon afterwards, the company hired a pest control company and the bugs mostly disappeared.

      1. Mad Harry Crewe*

        House centipedes are only dangerous to other little bugs. They’re not even considered a pest species as far as I know – just little predators that like dark and quiet and keep the silverfish and spiders down.

        1. allathian*

          Spiders are also little predators. We sometimes have them in the house and I’d rather live with (non-venomous) spiders than ants. When I was a kid we lived in a house that was built in the 1860s for a while, and the summer when we had an infestation of carpenter ants was memorable to say the least. Large ones can be 18 millimeters long (1 inch = 25.4 mm).

  42. Watry*

    My mom used to work in the call center for a major communications company. The fire alarm went off and everyone on her floor was actually forbidden to evacuate. It was a drill, but they didn’t know that.

    Someone on that floor knew someone very, very high up in the company. Someone got demoted.

    Unfortunately I think most call center workers probably have similar stories; they’re notoriously awful places.

    1. Managing While Female*

      My first job was at a call center. I was 15. I think it clouded my perception of what a ‘normal’ work environment was for a long time and… yeah, it was awful.

    2. MassMatt*

      I can confirm, they are generally awful places to work, but surprised at the level of danger reported in them here.

    3. milkdudsnotdrugs*

      There have been so many terrible call center stories in this thread! It makes me grateful that the mid-west company I work for takes safety extremely seriously. We (in the call center) have been told multiple times that if a fire alarm or tornado siren sounds, to not even bother telling the customer on the phone what it happening and to evacuate or seek shelter immediately. We have a storm radio with a very loud alarm and management is always watching the weather. We have safety plans for every scenario.
      Tornado? Go to the basement and gather in your designated area.
      Fire? Evacuate and gather in your designated area in the parking lot.
      Active shooting? Run. Don’t stop, don’t gather. Just get to safety however you can.
      We have safety drills and managers have roll call lists of everyone in their division on shift. And the company just recently took great pains and cost to tighten up our security systems with designated key fobs to unlock the entrances and track who is entering the building to cut down on even the potential for unwanted/unknown trespassers.
      The warehouse has very strict safety standards and training and all chemicals are packaged and stored according to safety standards.
      Obviously this is how it SHOULD be- but clearly there are many companies who just don’t care. I’m feeling a renewed appreciation for my company today.

  43. K D*

    Apologies if I am stretching the definition of work, but a few years back there was a tornado warning and then a tornado actually touched down within 15 miles of my college and there was no safety alert from the college about it? (this is in the late 2010s, so we would get safety text alerts about things). I am glad it missed us because tornadoes are not common in my state (NJ) and I don’t think most people were aware or sheltering.

    1. Wilbur*

      My company talked up how they used a private company to monitor for tornados, so when we got the alert for one on our phones from the National Weather service they told us to ignore it. I found some work to do in the service level. Later that afternoon people were sharing videos they took of the tornado from the parking lot. They ended up changing to relying on both the NWS and the private company after that.

      1. Lee the sql*

        I have this exact story, wonder if its the same company. My work group all went and hung out in the take cover shelter when our phones went off even though the building alarm didn’t, but we were alone in there.

      2. Tree*

        hey, former co-worker (I hope!) My building’s facility manager personally found everyone and sent them to shelter after he couldn’t get security to sound the alarm. And so I didn’t take a transfer across the street to your place.

        (if this happens in multiple companies… I vote we riot)

    2. Luanne Platter*

      Hi, I live in an area where tornados are common. Fifteen miles from a touchdown isn’t really dangerous, especially if it’s a smaller tornado. If it helps you feel better, you can turn on alerts from weather services on your phone that will alert when a tornado warning is issued, so you don’t need to rely on your college. But modern weather technology is really good at predicting paths of tornados, so if your college didn’t alert you, there was probably no danger.

      1. K D*

        I do have the weather service alerts on my phone and that had alerted me and many other students and had told us to take shelter, which is why I side-eye my college.

      2. LeFlutterBee*

        Yep, more than 5 miles away wouldn’t warrant action unless it was headed your direction.

  44. JustaTech*

    I used to be on the safety committee for my lab. One time another committee member and I were doing our monthly inspection tour when we entered a lab that was currently being used by a contractor who was a former employee (and the only person who knew how to work that instrument).
    We walk in the lab and find a half-empty bottle of blue Gatorade inside the instrument enclosure.
    And a BANANA on the acid cabinet.

    (The most basic of lab safety rules, that most people learn back in high school, is no food in the lab. And 98% of people who have any kind of science degree understand why the rule exists. Are there reasonable, since-based exceptions? Sure. But not in that lab.)

    1. Bunch Harmon*

      When I taught biology, I had my own classroom, but shared a lab with several other teachers. The lab was frequently requisitioned for other things (testing, school pictures, etc), which were generally fine. What wasn’t fine was when admin told the senior class sponsors that the seniors could prep for their service project in the lab. They were making PB&J sandwiches to hand out to homeless people. Multiple people were surprised to hear that it was an issue. Gross.

    2. Alice*

      Oh god. I did work experience in a Cat 2 lab, which in the UK meant they handled things like blood samples from patients, meningococcal bacteria and other infective or potentially infective material.

      One of the scientists would eat her lunch while preparing samples. Not between preparing samples, while preparing them. You could watch her cut up a biopsy sample, put down the scalpel, take a bite of sandwich and then pick it up again. Horrifying.

      1. JustaTech*

        OMG, I am screaming.
        The guy who taught me how to prepare mouse spleens did it while chewing gum. But not like, in the back of his mouth chewing, but this weird open-mouth chewing. It was really gross.

        1. JustaTech*

          In a different lab I had a much older coworker who had done most of her training in the USSR. One day we were working with blood samples in these itty bitty glass tubes. To get the blood out you would tap on the top end with your (gloved) thumb and eventually all the blood would run out into the collection tube.
          Well, this hurt her thumb, so one day I looked over and there she was mouth pipetting blood!
          I shrieked, and told her that she must never, ever do that again, and if it was that bad I would tap the tubes. No mouth pipetting!

      2. DramaQ*

        I heard a legend from one of my old PIs that apparently someone at her previous workplace was eating a microwave burrito while working in a BSL 3+ lab dealing with Bubonic plague. While dressed in full PPE.

        The other one was in her lab. Someone injected themselves with West Nile Virus. Using a dual lock needle. That one boggled my brain because the whole point of a dual lock needle is it LOCKS and you need to actively push to get it to engage and release. They are designed to prevent the very thing he did. I commented that dude was either an idiot or was really hoping to get himself a class action law suit.

  45. Plantlab*

    My research lab uses razor blades to cut leaves off plants all the time. And we leave the razor blades on the bench when we are done, because we will probably need them again in a few minutes. Our entire lab usually had 20-30 rusty razorblades sprinkled over any flat surface at a given time. EHS (Environmental Health and Safety) hated us.

    1. Plantlab*

      We had very few injuries. I cut myself twice, once while using a razor blade on rotted rubber tubing, and the second time when I put loose razor blades in my purse to transport them to the greenhouse. I thought I got them all out, but I was wrong…

    2. SciDiver*

      I used to work in a (non-medical) research lab that used needles for one particular task. We didn’t use them frequently enough for the lab manager to justify *the hassle* of getting a sharps container from EHS. His solution was to put them in a cardboard box hidden on top of one of our sample fridges nobody used, with the label “Noodles”. It’s been 3 years since I left and I’d bet it’s still there.

      1. A Girl Named Fred*

        I used to work for a blood bank (office staff, not phlebotomist, but still) and I just full body cringed so hard I think I pulled a muscle. Noodles?!

    3. Nesprin*

      Oh this one is so easy to fix- you put a binder clip on the business end of the razor and your risk of accidental cutting is 0.

  46. MassMatt*

    Over a summer I worked for a hotel and they needed to install some bolts on the walls of the pool to string lane marker bouys. The day manager thought facilities was taking too long to fulfill the request so he did it himself.

    He stood in the pool, chest deep in water, drilling into the walls of the pool with a corded electric drill! Oh, and the cord was plugged in to the outlet on the other side of the pool, and the extension cord was mostly submerged!

    When employees expressed their horror, he told them to shut up and get back to work.

    I will say that at least he did this himself vs: ordering an underling to do it.

    1. purple monkey & bubblegum tree*

      This one. This is the worst one. This is breathtakingly dangerous and stupid.

  47. Pajama Mommas*

    My wife once worked for a small school for students with learning disabilities that was located in a strip mall. She has a lot of stories from that time, but 2 of my favorites are:
    1. The students had recess in the parking lot, and there were just a few cones put up to try to prevent drivers who were visiting the other business in the strip mall from running over the children.
    2. OSHA was called at one point and determined that there was not enough oxygen inside for the number of people who were in the building. The solution was to prop open the one door that led to the parking lot.

    1. The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon*

      Ah yes, the well-known method for addressing learning disabilities: less oxygen.

  48. GiantPanda*

    Not really egregious, but:
    During fire alerts all the entrances to our office building are supposed to be blocked. People can leave but not go in (and walk right into the fire).
    Except they forgot the door from the basement parking – and I came in late, went up, started work, wondered where everyone was.

    Luckily, it was only a drill, and has been fixed.

  49. exoboist1*

    Our building currently doesn’t have working fire alarms. They have issued me an air horn and a whistle to use if I see or smell fire/smoke. But I’m only here during business hours and other people use the building later. It is estimated we’ll have alarms back in a month (if we haven’t burned down in the meantime).

    1. WLP*

      How is that building even certified for occupancy under those conditions? That’s crazy.

    2. NothingIsLittle*

      When one of our buildings had an electrical problem that kept setting off the fire alarm (faulty triggers, not dangerous or creating smoke) one of our employees had to do hourly fire checks of the property! Granted, it was a historic building so the requirements may have been different…

  50. MicroBioChic*

    The production plant I worked at several years ago had a fire on the roof that the company across the street had to call and tell them about because no one noticed. I don’t know the details because it happened first shift and I was third.

    Same place, happened on my shift while I was there. Temporary shift lead was walking around (regular shift lead spent all night in his office) and walked past a maintenance worker smoking a cigarette while doing something in one of the electrical panels. She told him he wasn’t supposed to be smoking indoors, and according to the rumor mill, his response was “no f’ing shit.” He put the cigarette out though, so at least there was that?

    My first job out of undergrad, I was the only worker in a very small on site QC lab for a slaughterhouse. The company I worked for specialized in these small on site labs run out of specially made trailers. The autoclave went out, and the company didn’t want to pay for a technician to come, so they diagnosed the issue based on video I took of the autoclave, and sent a replacement part. They talked me through replacing it over the phone, and it worked! I was very proud of myself at the time, and it wasn’t until several years later I realized just how wrong amateur autoclave repair could have gone. I definitely should have told them to pay for a technician to come out and diagnose/repair it.

  51. Medium Sized Manager*

    I worked at an indoor soccer club in college, and they would regularly schedule 21/22-year-old women to close alone. The facility wasn’t in the greatest part of town, and drunk men would hang out in the parking lot after games (we sold beer). Despite our complaints, they never scheduled a second closer, so one or more of us would always hang out off the clock to make sure everybody got to their cars safely. The men were…flirty enough indoors and none of us were interested to see what the outdoor personalities were like.

    1. PepperVL*

      I bet every one of those men and every one of the people who did the schedules doesn’t understand why women choose the bear.

  52. Juicebox Hero*

    When I worked retail, something happened that knocked out power to the whole block. I remember it was a Saturday and I was eating lunch at a McDonald’s around the corner when it happened. I heard later that a squirrel got into a bundle of power cables or something, which I’m sure got it mad props in rodent heaven.

    I went back to the store to see if we were allowed to go home. This was an old 5-floor standalone store and there were no windows unless you were on the first floor near the entrances or near the doors to the parking garage on the upper floors. For the rest of the store, “stygian” fits pretty well. No escalators, emergency backup lights, elevators, cash registers, etc.

    They made us go back to our departments, in the pitch dark, walking up or down escalators, and wait to see if the power would come back on in a timely fashion. So we’re bumbling around in the dark in a store full of metal clothing racks with sharp corners, glass displays, fragile mannequins, shelves sticking out – the works.

    A few departments had flashlights – this was the early 00s before most people had cell phones, and the phones didn’t have flashlights – for rooting around in the badly lit and cluttered stockrooms which were a whole world of OSHA violations in themselves. Most people just kind of clustered around the light sources near the escalators so we wouldn’t have to walk around too much, although some sadistic department managers made their employees unpack stock or straighten displays in the dark.

    They finally gave up and closed the store about 90 minutes later, and again everyone was on their own for finding the exit.

    It’s been 20 years, but if I bump into someone else who worked there at the time, we still talk about the time the power went out to the whole store and they wouldn’t let us go home.

    1. allathian*


      When I was in college, I had a job at a fast food stand inside a railway station. Our changing rooms and stock room were in the basement. There were no windows, and all the lights were on timer switches.

  53. spuffyduds*

    The library I (formerly, thank goodness) worked at reopened to the public in June 2020. (Their general covid response is a whole ‘nother story.) They did have plexiglass screens at the front desk, but some of them were so badly attached to the desk that they tipped over if patrons touched them. A couple of the young and limber assistants managed to dodge quickly enough to get out of the way of falling ones, but an older assistant who had a limp was understandably worried about getting bashed in the head. She asked for it to be fixed, and when nothing happened she followed up. Boss’s response was to be irritated with her for bringing it up more than once.

    1. not nice, don't care*

      (Some) libraries are the worst in terms of worker safety and decency. Administrations really depend on vocational awe, even to smooth over assaults from patrons.

    2. cloudy*

      My friend was a school nurse when the kids in the district went back to the classroom in September 2021. The school had these covid desk shields for kids to put around themselves in the classroom to separate them a bit more. She treated at least 2-3 kids a day who had minor cuts and scratches from the shields falling on them because they were left completely unsecured.

      At one point they added clips to try to stop the constant sea of what she described as “desk shield casualties,” but it didn’t help much. The kids still constantly managed to hurt themselves on the things. One kid even managed to poke themselves in the eye with it (it had rounded corners and everything).

  54. Bruce*

    Summer job before going to college at a jewelry factory/foundry in SF in the late 70s: We’d all gather on the back roof for lunch on sunny days, and some people would pass around a joint. Then we’d go back inside to work with belt sanders, torches, and foot pedal activated presses that predated modern safety lock-outs. One day the most stonery stoner mangled his finger in a press, almost chopped it off. The next day the manager called a meeting and explained that lunch time pot smoking had to stop…

    1. Bruce*

      After college worked in a company with a semiconductor fab. Our CEO was a veteran of a war in a Middle East country and liked to make comments comparing business to combat. We were sometimes downwind of the local land fill, and the smell would be bad enough that a fab worker would activate the gas-leak alarm and evacuate the fab. But one day a real gas fire started on the roof… this was nasty stuff that burned on contact with air (Silane, I think… there were other gases that were much worse!). The fire department decided to let it burn itself out, but the CEO wanted to get production going again so he borrowed a thermal fire suit from the fire fighters and ORDERED the fab manager to borrow one too, then they both went up on the roof and found the valve to cut off the gas. One could argue that this showed leadership and initiative, but the fab manager decided he’d had enough and quit shortly afterwards… the next time I saw him he was telling this story in a bar and getting wide eyed reactions!

      1. Polaris*

        Recently in my general vicinity (meaning, you could SEE the glow from my house because it was high and bright against the night sky) there was a huge warehouse fire, complicated by incorrectly stored something-or-other-tane cannisters. A lot of them. A lot lot of them. That the building was NOT rated to house. It was its own self contained fireworks show, unfortunately. It caused property damage, bodily harm, and unfortunately one casualty.

        This is why my jaw is currently in the basement at work over your anecdote. I’m going to go collect it now.

        1. Bruce*

          At least in our case the fab building did not go up in flames. Going up to turn off the silane valve by itself was probably not extremely dangerous, but like I said there were other gases being piped around that were really bad… I think the joke about arsine was “what does arsine smell like? Nobody living knows…”

  55. WellRed*

    During my recent brief stint stocking shelves at Target (yeah! I’m naming names) I was appalled and terrified by the u-boats. A long narrow shelving cart that they would overload with boxes of merch, including stacking heavy boxes higher than my head. I was also always worried some unattended kid would try to scale one when I wasn’t loooking ; )

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Ouch, yeah. At the Trader Joe’s I worked out, u-boats were not allowed on the floor if there were customers present.

    2. hard same*

      I had to call the fire marshal on my location after backstock got so bad from understaffing that the fire exits were all blocked

  56. not nice, don't care*

    Fairly minor, but the director of public safety at a public library repeatedly took all the radios that security staff depend on in encounters with violent and mentally ill visitors. There have been assaults on staff, repeated hate crimes, furniture thrown etc. and no way to summon help, yet this person is fine taking the radios for a very unnecessary training session for non-security staff.

    Same director is very eager to escalate confrontations with disruptive people (she’s proud of her kick boxing lessons), in direct disobedience to orders from administration. She loves to amp up people then fade while security staff try to de-escalate and prevent injuries.

  57. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    Worked in a wine bar. So many instances of thin-walled wine glasses being broken in the 3-compartment sink (wash/rinse/sterlize), but people just keep working away instead of draining, cleaning out the shards of glass, and refilling.

  58. Le Sandwich Artiste*

    Probably fair to include one of my own safety blunders from my restaurant days. I was managing a Subway restaurant, doing the closing shift by myself. The water pan in the bread steaming machine (of course, the actual word escapes me now) had run dry and gotten calcification/whatever on it. In my infinite wisdom, I decided to double up on the cleaning agents to make sure and get it clean. I think I decided to use oven cleaner + bleach. Mere minutes later, toxic fumes take over and I desperately open the front and back doors to try to air out the place. I was eventually able to get back in and finish up, but that was a late night. Lesson learned: do NOT mix cleaning chemicals. Ever. Oh, the cringe.

    1. Lab Boss*

      We never saw oven cleaner mixed with bleach, but many many young men at my summer camp job learned for the first time that when cleaning out an industrial oven with oven cleaner, you occasionally need to come OUT of the oven so you don’t get ragingly high on oven cleaner.

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      Yep. Never mix anything with bleach. Almost everything that results is deadly.

    3. Menace to Sobriety*

      Ooooh yeah I was working retail once when MUCH younger and was told the clean the bathrooms and “the cleaning supplies are in that closet.” So I used…well all of them…including bleach and ammonia. The store had to be evacuated, because I had essentially made mustard gas. And I got in trouble even though I was never told what chemicals were/weren’t safe to use. The jerks.

      1. saf*

        Once upon a time…. I worked in a neighborhood pizza place. Our maintenance/cleaning/everything not kitchen or FOH guy was from Guatemala, and had been military there. He was tough, and strong, and declared war on the rats in the alley behind the place.

        He was NOT safety minded. He found the rathole under the dumpster. He poured a bottle of bleach and a bottle of ammonia down the hole. Then he put a sheet of plywood over it. It killed a LOT of rats. We all worried about the fumes though. He did not understand why we were worried.

  59. KnightOfTruth*

    I work for a huge tech company.
    They decided to delocalize all of the Customer Support services in another Country, where they could find much cheaper workers.
    It was brought to the company’s leaders’ attention that the wages they pay are so low that some of these workers are selling accounts and account info to third parties for money.
    The proof was found, the general level of Customer Support tanked, and the bosses still wrote it off, saying that players are happy, and it’s important to keep the costs down.
    We are talking of a billionaire company.

  60. WeirdChemist*

    When I was in grad school, I was working in a campus building on a weekend afternoon when there wasn’t a lot of people around. When I left for the day, a chunk of the road near my building was closed off, but I couldn’t tell why. Mildly annoyed that my normal route was blocked, I eventually made it home. About FOUR HOURS LATER, the school send out a campus alert that there was a shooting directly outside that building… about 10 mins before I left. Umm… would have liked to know that before I almost drove through an active crime scene!

  61. Lab Boss*

    We were preparing for some testing involving an extremely nasty shellfish toxin (think: a barely-visible droplet touching your skin means you WILL die before any aid can be rendered, and it will hurt the entire time you’re dying). Official safety protocols included extra-long gloves of a specific material and the use of a specific type of respirator mask and enclosed hood. Out manager told us that we should use all of our normal equipment because “it’s too expensive to get a bunch of fancy stuff for one study” and “If you’re really good at your job you shouldn’t be spilling things anyway.” Upper management did back us up but not until we flatly refused to do the job without ALL proper equipment.

    That same manager also told us to “Just work on the other side of the room” when a mercury thermometer shattered on the floor of the lab.

    And finally a summer camp story: we got a “blob” (as popularized in the movie “Heavyweights,”) a giant air sac that floats in the lake. You take turns jumping from an elevated platform onto one end, launching each other into the lake from the other end. For safety we recommend a maximum ~50 pound weight difference so a heavy jumper doesn’t launch a small flyer too high. But when the EMPLOYEES got to play with the blob, we did things like “put a 100 pound 15 year old out at one end, and have three ~250 pound guys all jump on the other end at once.” You could see them going above the tree line. It was a miracle nobody was hurt but man was it fun.

    1. Nesprin*

      Ooh conotoxins? Those are definitely break out the good glove worthy+ call OSHA if the good gloves are not forthcoming.

      When I had a student working with chemo agents in my lab I made him calculate the 50% lethal dose for his bodyweight of everything he worked with. He was appropriately respectful of the doublegloving and disposal rules after that.

      1. Lab Boss*

        Not conotoxins- it’s been a few years but I think it was one of the paralytics- saxitoxin maybe? Nice exercise to induce the right state of terror… er, “respect,” in a student though. My very first PI was more blunt- he just pointed me to the hood that had mutagens in it and said “never open that or you will get cancer and you will die.” Words to live by.

    2. sb51*

      I had a chemistry teacher in high school who was old enough that her brain defaulted to mercury in thermometers, even though all of the lab thermometers had been non-mercury for a good while at that point. Someone dropped and shattered one, and immediately went to her because we were always supposed to make everything stop if there was broken glass, even though we didn’t really work with anything dangerous.

      Upon hearing “I broke a thermometer” she went bone-white and basically bodily flung us all out of the room. And then sheepishly went “oh, right”, and let us back in while she cleaned up the glass.

      1. Nesprin*

        Oh I’ve cleaned up mercury thermometers before in the winter- mercury won’t atomize very well if it’s cool. On a hot day it’s EHS’s chance to break out the moon suits.

      2. Artemesia*

        surprises me as the mercury in thermometers is not very dangerous — it just beads up, it doesn’t evaporate into the air. Not good to have lying around, but not an immediate criss either.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          Yeah, but high school students will mess with it. See earlier points about teenage boys being full of nonsense. In this instance, a bunch of female students will also act foolishly.

        2. metadata minion*

          Yeah, it’s my understanding that while obviously you shouldn’t go playing with liquid mercury bare-handed, it doesn’t absorb readily through the skin, and the real danger is when you’re either around vapors or getting exposed through diet.

        3. Turtlewings*

          My high school science teacher told us about a friend of his whose children found an old mercury thermometer and were playing with it. Of course they broke it — and the mercury dripped down the heating vent. The whole family died. Some of them that night from inhaling the mercury, some years later from slower things, but all caused by that night.


      Is there anyone else of a certain age who actually used to play with the mercury from a broken oral thermometer? It was so interesting to watch the way it moved!

      1. allathian*

        I’ve played with mercury in my high school chemistry class. Granted, it was under a fume hood, but…

      2. mymotherwasahamster*

        Yes! I was just remembering a time when I was a kid and my mom’s oral thermometer broke, so she used her fingernail to show me how the mercury would bead up (and made it VERY clear to me not to touch it). This was around 1990 and she was an X-ray tech at the time, so I always assumed she was being… okay maybe not “reasonable” per se but at least not foolish. But after reading the comments above I’m wondering if this assessment was inaccurate?

        Side note, around that age I always thought it was cool how the word “thermometer” had “mom” in it, since that’s who sticks it under your tongue…

      3. Happily Retired*

        In my 10th grade chemistry class, we had, umm, access to mercury. We used to flick little mercury balls across the counter at each other, like some early version of Pong.

        We also pipetted by mouth, including (weak) acids. This was 1970 or so.

  62. Collarbone High*

    I once stumbled on a website where military personnel were encouraged to report safety violations, and the photos included someone dragging a venomous snake off a tarmac by the tail, and a guy changing a light bulb above a filled swimming pool who was standing barefoot on a metal ladder stacked on top of another ladder. The second one was captioned “I don’t even know where to start.”

    1. Not a Vorpatril*

      Heh. I talked frequently with the base Safety Officer in my time, and his favorite was the Hummer that got flipped due to an invading “Al Qaeda Grasshopper”. That and reminding our younger members that we are not in the navy, so we should not be pretending to be submarine captains during the winter, peering out of one tiny patch of cleared window after a snow storm.

      1. NotWhatIThoughtBookieMeant*

        How many of them have you growled “Ivan, you idiot” at?

  63. Truthy*

    I work for a huge tech company.
    They decided to delocalize all of the Customer Support services in another Country, where they could find much cheaper workers.
    It was brought to the company’s leaders’ attention that the wages they pay are so low that some of these workers are selling accounts and account info to third parties for money.
    The proof was found, the general level of Customer Support tanked, and the bosses still wrote it off, saying that players are happy, and it’s important to keep the costs down.
    We are talking of a billionaire company.

  64. Percysowner*

    I worked in a law library on the top floor of a courthouse. There was an attic over us. Our fire alarm system was notorious overly sensitive. It would go off whenever the cafeteria in the basement burnt toast. Everyone pretty much ignored the alarms unless they continued for quite a while. One day, the alarm went on a bit longer, and the sensors indicated the problem was in the attic, above our floor. A maintenance man went to the attic and came down yelling “Fire in the attic”. The alarm kept on and most of the building evacuated, except for us because our boss said they weren’t leaving. We could if we really WANTED to, but they didn’t think it was a big deal, so the staff acted like ninnies and stayed. About 5-10 minutes later the fire department came up, having climbed the stairs going to the attic. The gave us all the strangest looks. One week later, the word went out, from then on there would be surprise fire drills, everyone had to clear the building, every floor would be checked afterward to make sure everybody had left. If anyone hadn’t left, there would be words and possibly worse. For the next 15 years I worked there every so often the entire building had to evacuate, because of my boss not wanting to leave.

  65. Soup Sandwich*

    I was an admin for a boarding school. The cafeteria was part of the main campus at the top of a huge hill. My office was down the hill at the student center, which had a smaller cafeteria. The main cafeteria was under construction, so the staff had to cook in our kitchen and take all the food up the hill in our work van. We get horrible winters, so the kitchen staff was understandably less than thrilled driving vans full of piping hot food up an incredibly steep hill in huge snow drifts since the road to the big house was an unplowed service road. The administration was adamant it be hot, cooked food, and not food easy to transport like sandwiches and pasta dishes. There was an option of temporarily expanding the kitchen in our building and having students eat their meals here as it was closer to their dorms and classrooms. The administration argued it would be too expensive and disruptive to the student’s daily routine. They were adamant that this process would work but wouldn’t get appropriate snow tires for kitchen vans. From a food service and a vehicle safety standpoint, it was a terrible idea.

    One day, I saw the kitchen van sliding sideways and backward down the hill past my window and hit a telephone pole. The two staff members were fine—rattled but okay. It looked much worse outside of the van because a heavy steel pot of soup flew forward and smashed the windshield from the inside. It’s a good thing it was below zero that day because they were splattered with soup that would have otherwise been scalding.

    Suddenly the administration had the totally rational and original idea of temporarily expanding the kitchen in our building and pivoting to food that didn’t need as much prep, like sandwiches.

  66. Your Social Work Friend*

    In college I worked in a restaurant that was a converted house. The front seating area had once been the front porch and was very narrow, and had one long table in the back. A party came in with an older gentleman who was in a wheelchair. The lead hostess sat them at this table . . . in the back of the “porch,” down an aisle they you had to walk single file. Had there been an emergency, we never would have been able to get the guy out, or anyone seated on the other side of the table. I argued with the lead, the family thanked me, the table was switched. Instead we sat them in the main building. There was a small step to get over the threshold and no permanent ramp (and someone kept moving the movable one). A couple of staff PICKED UP THE MAN’S WHEELCHAIR WITH HIM IN IT to get him over, without asking him if it was okay. We could have killed that guy if he had tipped back and fallen on his head. No one saw any problems with this.

  67. ursula*

    I worked at a Walmart when I was 16, in their photo lab. The machines constantly went on the fritz and they would do anything to avoid the delay and cost of calling a professional to fix them. That meant that we all had to try and fix them ourselves. The number of times I ended up elbow- or shoulder-deep in a machine with moving parts that was still plugged in….

    My brother worked for one of those companies where students paint houses one summer in cottage country. At one point, his supervisor tried to force him to get up on a 20′ ladder that they were setting up in a shallow part of the lakebed beside a client’s dock. He got fired for refusing.

  68. AnonymousForObviousReasons*

    At one job we had a 2ft wide heavy duty fan that did not have a cover that we were supposed to move around by hand WHILE IT WAS OPERATING. It was suspended by a rope and we needed to move it in and out of a hole based on air readings, or when people needed to climb out of the hole. When my coworker inevitably sliced her finger open and had to get stitches they blamed her. I took her spot when she went to get stitched up and had to clean up her blood so I wasn’t sitting in it.

  69. Private*

    Just before I was hired, my company had fire in their warehouse. Ambulances were called to treat employees for smoke inhalation. The company promised to invest in better fire mitigation and detection. For context, fires are a known risk in this industry. Fast forward 6 months or so and none of these safety systems have been implemented. Turns out that the OSHA investigation showed that the current system met minimum standards and upgrades would be expensive, so management decided to do nothing. I left for other reasons after a few years, but the business continues to have fires every few years.

  70. AnonForThis*

    I used to work for the US fed government. Once, our building was having some ceiling/duct work done and my boss had to keep going over to the workers to remind them “Hey, you’re literally in an OSHA building… please stop messing around on the ladders…”

    1. Tinkerbell*

      A friend of mine works for the CDC. His office building was in terrible shape but since they were just office and IT guys, not important labs, the CDC kept putting off moving them. The building got shut down for an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease, and finally was condemned for black mold before the CDC finally sprang for better offices.

  71. Sevenrider*

    I was working at a law firm downtown in a major city on 09/11, right across the street from one of the tallest buildings in the U.S. Our entire building was evacuating that morning, except the law firm where I worked. Office manager actually yelled at people who wanted to leave. Of course attorneys were packing up and leaving, but staff where not told they could leave. Then the building management finally stepped in and announced the building was closing. I was on my way in that morning and in the lobby when I heard a rep from the building say they were going to close. When I asked the OM, she blew up at me and snipped “NO, WE ARE NOT CLOSING.” I then overheard her say staff just wanted to leave so they could enjoy a day off. Seriously? So much loss on that day and what sticks in my mind is how simple a grown woman acted in the face of that tragedy. Shame on you R, wherever you are today.

  72. Bee*

    During my first year as an educator, I got written up for not sending a student to the nurse when he had a headache. Why didn’t I send him from our portable building to the main offices where the nurse was stationed? Because an escaped felon had decided to use our open campus as a hiding spot during a stand-off with police and the campus was actively on lockdown. I hadn’t wanted to give the desperate criminal a 7-year-old hostage, but . . . you know . . . clearly I was in the wrong and needed to be reprimanded.

  73. Wiscogirl*

    When I was 19 and very naive, I worked nights in a factory. I was the smallest person on the crew, so they would send me into confined space permit areas by myself and tell me to “just jiggle this or pull that.” They would also send me under the machines for product that had fallen under the machines WITHOUT TURNING OFF THE MACHINES. I would have to hold my hair down and crawl on my stomach, hoping my hair and clothing wouldn’t get caught in the running belts. I honestly could have died.

  74. Garblesnark*

    I worked in a medical school that was physically connected to a hospital. As in, there were multiple points where there was a hallway where a person could be completely indoors and inside both the medical school and the hospital at the same time. There were no physical barriers of any kind between the two buildings. One did not need identification or credentials to pass between the two areas.

    When there was a dangerous emergency in the medical school and the medical school was evacuated, everyone calmly walked over to the hospital. And then they stopped walking. Every time.

    Genuinely I cannot think of a single emergency that would be stopped by the imaginary line or change in flooring that separated the entities.

    1. Admin of Sys*

      Okay, that’s just funny. I used to work in a set of connected buildings where three buildings had been stitched together, and they all had independent fire alarms. But they also had fire safe walls and mag doors that automatically closed if an alarm went off (assuming someone hadn’t propped them open with a brick, but that’s a different problem).
      It was always a bit nerve racking to sit at work while the hallway 2 doors down had a firealarm going off though. We usually went outside to hang with the folks from the evacuated half of the buildings, jic.

    2. Tree*

      after an actual emergency at work, we evacuated, counted noses, and just kept walking. we were several miles from town, but we weren’t staying there. so it might have been ok!

  75. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

    I went to a small high school, where the same teacher taught both chemistry and physics. My senior year, the new chem/physics teacher was inventorying and clearing out a bunch of chemicals from storage. (His predecessor had been teaching there for decades before retiring.)

    One of the things he found was approximately a pint of mercury. In a glass milk bottle. He let a couple of us hold it before putting it away again and adding it to the list of hazardous materials to be disposed of. (Incidentally, a pint of mercury is really freaking heavy.)

    1. danmei kid*

      Found the same type of thing cleaning out an old lab room. It was in a screw cap mason jar with the cap mostly rusted by that point.

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      Our high school chemistry teacher used to pour some mercury into an Erlenmeyer flask and pass it around the class so we could all look at it.

      The 1980s….good times, good times.

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        One time, I found liquid mercury in a child’s toy in a Kmart. It was the moving part of a maze. I immediately took it to customer service and explained the problem. I hope that the store manager did the right thing.

        1. Lab Boss*

          I had a maze just like that, in the early-mid 90’s. So, quite a while ago, but really recently enough that someone should have known better.

        2. Chauncy Gardener*

          I had a maze like that in the 60’s. Played with it all the time. My husband, from an Eastern Euro country, played with ACTUAL mercury on the floor of his home!

          1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

            Playing with mercury happened in 5th grade. I think a thermometer must have broken, because that was about the quantity I remember seeing rolling around on a sheet of paper. Terrifying in retrospect (by which I mean senior year when the pint of mercury reminded us of the incident), but our 5th grade teacher remained amazingly calm about getting us to stop playing with it so nobody panicked or spilled it off the paper.

            1. L*

              Yup. As a kid it was fascinating if a thermometer broke! We played with the blob of mercury until Mom noticed, yelled at us, and cleaned it up (and put the mercury in the trash . . . )

              I am old.

              1. ICodeForFood*

                Same her, except it was my father, a CHEMIST, who showed us how the blob of mercury could roll around before he disposed of it (I hope in some safe way, but I don’t know…)

                I, too, am old.

                1. mymotherwasahamster*

                  Phew! I wrote in a different thread above how some of the mercury-related comments were making me second-guess my X-ray tech mom’s wisdom in seeking to pique my curiosity for med tech by watching her do the same thing. Maybe still a questionable parenting choice, but at least not uniquely so. ;)

          2. STILL ALIVE*

            Yep. I am old and played with mercury. Although, isn’t it mercury vapors that are the most dangerous?

            1. Peanut Hamper*

              I believe so. I think it was the mercury vapors from pressing hats that caused so many hatmakers to go bananapants. Hence, the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland.

      2. AngryOctopus*

        I found a mercury candy thermometer when cleaning out my grandma’s house. I brought it to work (lab) because I knew they’d be able to safely dispose of it.

      3. Sue Smith*

        In HS chemistry class in the ’70s, we actually got to get a bit of mercury at our desks so we could push it around with our fingers. It was great fun breaking it into small beads and then rejoining it into a larger bead. No health warnings–we were supposed to be careful not to lose any so it could be returned to the teacher.

    3. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

      During my junior year, our AP Chemistry teacher decided she didn’t want to bother going outside for a fire drill (this was November in Arizona, so just laziness on her part). Instead, she took us all and had us hide in the lab so the classroom looked empty. She went to her office…

      Being the good students we were, we immediately started playing 9-volt chicken. In this game, you put your fingers to the ends of a 9-volt battery, then pass it to the next person. Each time it goes around the circle, you add another 9-volt to it. If you drop the batteries or can’t hold on for three seconds, you’re out. So, yeah, during a fire drill we were in the lab electrocuting ourselves with a good dozen 9-volt batteries chained together.

      1. Esmae*

        My high school physics teacher made the mistake of bringing in some kind of device that would generate an electric current between two wires. Of course a couple of the guys immediately started a challenge to see who could pass the highest voltage through their tongue.

        1. Artifical morning person*

          When I was in third or fourth grade, our teacher brought in a 9-volt battery and had us put our tongues to the contacts to feel the (mild) shock. One battery, passed around for however many kids to lick and get zapped.

    4. Diatryma*

      I think science teachers have a lot of opportunity to get weird. Or at least mine did, including my dad.

      So one day in high school, an announcement comes over saying that due to a boiler problem, the school doesn’t have heat, and please let your students go to their lockers to get their coats if they wish. Cool. We continue with classes. The science teachers at one end of the hall decide that it’s cold, we know how to fix cold, break out the Bunsen burners! Also cool. But the school doesn’t have burners for every classroom, so the other end of the hall is out of luck. Dad, showing the kind of resourcefulness and understanding of air/fuel ratios that makes you an Eagle Scout, lights the gas jets directly.

      The only time I’m aware of that he actually set fire to the classroom was lesson-related. This worked out fine.

    5. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      My junior year of high school, I was taking physics, and the teacher decided to go drag stuff out of the back room the last week of classes to see what was there. (This was in a new building, but all the stuff had been moved over from the old 100-year-old building.) One of his friends was… something…in a small (palm-sized) manila envelope, wrapped in lead. Even with the wrapping, it registered on the Geiger counter. Did he put it as far from us as possible and back away slowly? No, he unwrapped it, to reveal “Uranium” written on the envelope. (No idea how old the sample was. It could have predated the Manhattan Project for all I know.)

    6. Proofin' Amy*

      In 1990, I had an unpaid internship at a small publishing company, and needed to make some money to at least pay for my train ticket into the city. So I worked for my cousin’s friend, the dentist, who was too cheap to hire a trained hygienist, and had recently let his secretary go because she had cancer. One of my jobs was to mix amalgam for fillings, and I definitely spilled the mercury more than once. Those were also the days when dental X-rays were still on film, and I eventually realized that if you didn’t put the film in the fixative for a long enough period, the X-rays would go blank once they dried. I’m assuming the dentist also realized this about six months later when his patients came in for their next checkup.

  76. Riggs*

    I worked for a defense contractor with many locations in our region. One year there was a massive snowstorm that closed the government and the majority of schools. My company sent closures to some offices, but not others – I looked on a map and there was no rhyme or reason to which were open or closed. I did end up getting told our office was closed, at 11am after I had already been there for 3 hours.

  77. danmei kid*

    Walked in to the research lab one day to find my boss down on the floor with two sheets of notebook paper trying to scrape up little balls of mercury from a flask he’d just broken, intending to flush them down the sink.

    I called the hazmat team from my desk while he protested that it was “just a little mercury”.

    Reader, I was 7 months pregnant at the time.

  78. Chocolate Teapot*

    I was a fire marshal at a previous job and it was decided to do a major fire drill exercise. However it was not possible to sound the alarm so the CEO sent an email to tell everyone to evacuate the building.

    Unsurprisingly nobody took any notice, spending time putting coats on. One girl decided to use the bathroom before she left and refused to listen to me saying she had to leave before me so I could check everyone had left.

    My boss thought it was hysterically funny I was treating it as if there was a fire. I didn’t agree.

  79. Mining mishaps*

    I work at a mine. A real honest to goodness we pull chunks of dirt and ore out of the ground, transport them in vehicles with tires taller than some buildings, and then process and ship to corporate consumers. I have worked here five years. In that time …

    -four members of labor pool have been fired for “jousting” with abandoned lengths of PVC. Their chariot of choice? The Kubota buggies (think hi-vis off-road golf carts)
    -the QA lab is ROUTINELY sending out reminders about NOT DRINKING FROM UNMARKED OPEN CONTAINERS found in their lab. Because apparently this is an issue!!!!
    -the second floor of one of our processing buildings collapsed in a roughly 10×10 hole. Because it was a wooden platform built in a steam environment and the wood rotted away. The temporary solution was to place a “catwalk” across the middle. Two years ago. I had to use it yesterday delivering equipment.

    The jousting was my favorite. i threatened to quit before going across the catwalk again.

      1. Mining mishaps*

        I heard about the jousting and got to watch the security camera playback later. It was genuinely entertaining.

        The most concerning for me isn’t our missing floor though. It’s what kind of lunatics are drinking from unknown unmarked containers! I have not left my diet cokes unattended since.

    1. Six Feldspar*

      I previously worked five years in the mining industry, it’s a strange world…

      Some of the safety processes they did pretty well when I was there (e.g. so much sun protection that a major mining town is now a hotspot for vitamin D deficiency). On the other hand, when a bull wandered into the car park one day the best idea we could come up with was to have our site manager go and yell at it…

  80. Not your typical admin*

    Worked at a grocery store in high school. One time we had a hurricane come through our area. The weather started out fine that day, and gradually got worse and worse. The store was packed and the owners didn’t want to close. They finally decided it was wise to let us go when our sign blew away

  81. Nobody Important*

    Worst I can think of was around 20 years ago when I worked for a certain Midwest-based discount store that had just expanded to the east coast (not the red one).

    One year we were in the path of a hurricane/tropical storm. Regional management decided to keep the store open as everybody else in the area closed.

    We got maybe 3 customers (yes, there were customers that dumb) all day while watching the wind-whipped rain outside as the hurricane hit, and the husband one of the employees came and got her while yelling about how the store needed to be closed.

    Eventually we got the all clear to close (I think we had maybe $20 in sales). As we started closing a lull hit and we get a call from the DM saying “well, it seems to have calmed down, you can probably stay open”

    Store was closed as planned and everybody got home before the rain started back up again.

    1. Beth*

      I was doing a volunteer stint that had me in a rural area in mid-Florida, We arrived on Wednesday to prep for an event that weekend.

      It was hurricane season. A storm shifted its track overnight to point directly at us, with a likely arrival on Sunday or Monday.

      We reached out to the head honcho in charge of the event, who was new to Florida. HE DID NOT WANT TO CANCEL. He figured we could get 200 people into a rural site, have a weekend event, and then they could all go home before the storm hit, right???

      For those not familiar with Florida hurricanes: storms can speed up, slow down, get bigger suddenly, get smaller, change direction, and pretty much do anything expect disappear altogether. The LAST place you want to be in the two days before a hurricane arrives is at the end of a series of small local roads hours from home, where you can be left stranded by closed roads, traffic jams, empty and closed gas stations, full hotels, shuttered businesses, etc. You want to be home with a full tank of gas.

      The idiot wouldn’t agree to cancel the event until it became clear that he was the only person still planning to attend. Everyone else was staying home and battening down. Meanwhile, he was prepared to leave the volunteer staff in the path of an oncoming hurricane, when we needed to be home doing our own prep.

    2. NotRealAnonForThis*

      Not a hurricane, but a blizzard. I was an assistant manager at a small chain specialty store.

      Retail days, yada yada. Blizzard ramping up, mall management opts to close the mall, three hours early. For the scale of this decision, understand that I live in a midwest state where snow is not a huge deal.

      For some reason the freaking out of state CEO decided to call about 5 minutes after published closing time to get our sales numbers for the day. And for similar some reason, we did not have an answering machine or voicemail on our store line. So he proceeds to redial the store for an hour, all the while vacillating between worry and pissed, to no avail. He calls mall management, but by now, nobody is there, so he leaves a message. Of course, the morning shift in the management office doesn’t know of the early-call off from yesterday, so they return his call with a baffled “huh, no idea why they were closed, the mall was open”. And of course, the morning opening staff at our store has no idea either, because I wasn’t going to bother her at 10 at night when mall management made the call.

      So I get a phone call from CEO AT HOME where I’m asleep (I worked the afternoon to close shift – I did not get up early) demanding to know why I left early. Um, because mall management closed the mall. Except, now, nobody in the mall management office at this hour will own up to it, so obviously I’m lying. I suggest that perhaps he either call the mall office later in the evening, or perhaps the local police department who likely heard the information, but that I’m quite honestly, on my day off and not dealing with this.

      Got to meet this CEO in person three weeks later – he was every bit the tool he came across on the phone. Never did apologize to me for his screaming fit over “closing early” even though he did find out the truth later that day. And he was Pikachu faced when I refused to stay on for a “$1 for every hour worked we’re closing your store lump sum bonus” because I already had a new job regardless the news of the store closing or not.

  82. Oryx*

    I worked at a career college (nonprofit on paper but very much operated as a for profit) and student attendance was a big KPI for both students and per school location as well and they hated closing or cancelling classes. Many of our students and some of the staff took public transportation, with the closest bus stop being half a mile away up/down a hill.

    During the polar vortex of 2014 they refused until the very last minute to cancel classes despite knowing how many of our students would have to walk a not insignificant amount to get there in subzero temps. When they did finally cancel, only teachers and students got off and the rest of us had to go in or use PTO (which, whatever. I had a car and as the librarian spent the day reading). But seeing how little they cared for the safety of the student population was very eye-opening and I started job searching soon after.

    1. not nice, don't care*

      My university always sends out notices when they aren’t going to close for bad weather, saying that it’s a personal decision blah blah blah. Meaning go ahead and risk your lives getting here, just as long as we stay open and collect those federal dollars.
      Definitely changed post-lockdown.

  83. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

    I’ve adjuncted at four different universities. Only one of them gave adjuncts keys to the classroom. Thank G-d it never came to this, but this means that it was impossible for us to lock the doors in an active shooter situation. To this day, I immediately scan rooms for what large objects can be quickly moved to barricade a door.

    1. lab*

      Lucky! I never got keys while adjuncting. At one place, I didnt even get a badge and the library wouldn’t let me in :(

  84. Ms. Teacher Person*

    I worked in a classroom where the roof was flat. It had been documented for several years that the roof was “compromised.” I came in to find it raining inside my room and black mold growing down the walls and on the floor. The district elected to “spray a bleach solution” around the room and then deemed it safe for students and staff. After that, the union got involved and the room had to be gutted. I had to get hospitalized for a severe mold reaction. Fun times.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      People really underestimate how seriously mold reactions and infections can be. They can kill people. I’m sorry you had to go through that.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        Also, if I recall correctly, bleach doesn’t really do anything to mitigate mold. But I may be wrong.

        1. Artemesia*

          Bleach does a great job on mold used early and often — I do’t think once you have a seriously compromised wall or ceiling, anything sprayed on will work — it is a tear down situation.

  85. MsM*

    Not my story, but from a friend who works for a multinational conglomerate that recently shifted from flexible remote policies to mandatory 3x a week in the office. Due to some kind of restructuring, her old desk had been reassigned and she was told to report to a smaller one-story building off to the side of the main office. Well, apparently no one had bothered to check this building since pre-pandemic, much less before sending workers there, because she walked into find a pipe had burst at some point. The carpets were coated in mildew, the walls were cracked, and nobody wanted to touch the electrical sockets for obvious reasons.

    She snapped a bunch of photos for documentation, drove back home, and emailed her boss with the photos attached to inform them she’d be continuing to work remotely until the situation was addressed. Last I heard, they’d brought contractors in, but no one’s tried to force her back on site.

  86. AnonForNow*

    A forklift ran into the gas main, causing a leak, and they decided to quietly wander around and inform individuals one at a time, so as to ‘not cause a panic’. When they got to our section, we pulled the fire alarm on our way out.

  87. LunaLena*

    I don’t know if this is really egregious, but I used to work in an office that was an open floor plan and everyone had semi-open cubicles. There were not a lot of people in our company, maybe a dozen or so. I was on the phone with a customer, and when I hung up several lengthy minutes later I noticed that it was strangely quiet in the office. I looked around and everyone had disappeared… and finally I spotted them through the window, staring at me from the farthest away point of the parking lot. When I went outside to find out what was going on, they told me that someone had hit a gas line right by the building, so they were told to evacuate until the gas company safety inspectors checked everything outside and gave them the all-clear. I asked why no one told me, and they said “I waved to try to get your attention, but you didn’t notice, and I didn’t want to be rude and interrupt.”

    Fortunately everything was deemed safe a little while later and we were all allowed back inside. But I still think of it as the time Midwestern Politeness could have been the death of me.

    1. Mad Harry Crewe*

      Yes, that is really egregious. You could have died or been severely injured in a gas explosion.

    2. Lurker*

      This is funny and terrible at the same time. If there was a fire, would they still have let you finish the call before saying something?

  88. Juicebox Hero*

    Another story from the big old junky store I worked at in the 00s.

    With big old buildings heating and cooling are always a problem, but at this place it was just horrible. In the cooler months it was on city steam heat, with is either off or on full blast. The department I worked in was one of the hottest in the store. I can remember waiting for the bus in the snow, wearing cropped pants and sandals, because closed shoes and long pants were too dang hot to work in.

    Summers were even worse because the prehistoric air conditioning units didn’t like to work and the owners were too cheap to replace or repair them properly, to the point where it would get up to 85+ degrees F in the hotter departments. I had problems with nausea, lightheadedness, swollen feet, and other heat-related problems. Our manager would actually bring in coolers of ice water for us on the worst days, and we had some friggin’ hot summers while I worked there.

    The only solution was to Push the Button. The unit that theoretically cooled our end of the 2nd floor was in the basement. It was a big green monster of a thing with pipes and shafts connected to it, and it had a button that when pushed would usually restart the compressor long enough to give us cool air. The problem was that the thing made ungodly noises and in particular when you pushed the button it sounded almost like a gunshot, and the compressor made a noise like a Mack truck bearing down on you. We took turns doing down to press the button and prayed that we wouldn’t be blown sky-high.

    Management told us we had to stop doing it because we weren’t authorized to handle the equipment. Also they expected us to get rid of our electric fans and act like we were perfectly fine and comfortable when customers complained. We stopped pushing the button, but we kept the fans and agreed wholeheartedly with the customers!

    During one extra hot summer things came to a head when a customer fainted from the heat, and suddenly management was dodging the local news channels and papers and OSHA reps. By sheer coincidence (not!) the AC instantly worked passably well for the rest of that summer. Then it was time for city heat and summer clothes in February.

    This is why I keep my house as cold as I can all year round now.

  89. Lurker*

    A former employee at my now-former job glued the fire door shut.

    Not out of malice, which would almost make more sense. The back area of our office was a storage area we haphazardly converted for our use and the double doors (one of only two exits for the whole office) were old and super drafty. This guy fancied himself a Mister Fix-It and refused to understand that you can just start yanking sinks apart in a rental unit. Anyway, apparently he had gotten some caulk and applied it all the way around the doors.

    We only noticed when we were decluttering and tried to take some trash out the back way, and thank god we did. The doors were sealed shut and we had to go at them with a steak knife to open it again. Our manager laughed it off like it was hilarious, which is just one example of the Alice in Wonderland logic that ran that place.

  90. Burning Sensation*

    At a previous job, our procedure for fire drills was for each person in our hallway to go into their office (on the 3rd floor with windows that didn’t open at all), close the door, and continue working. That never made much sense to me but I was the most junior on the team and never spoke up.

    I finally learned one day when I was filling in for the fire drill safety inspector that the *actual* procedure we were supposed to follow was that everyone closes their office doors and assembles in a common area to make sure everyone is safe. I’m pretty sure our boss just didn’t want us to stop working for the 15 minute or so that the drill was going on. I’m thankful to be in a much more safety-conscious workplace now.

  91. bookbug71*

    I worked at a downtown library and during an active shooting happening at a bank two blocks away, other nearby businesses went on lockdown. Not us. Doors stayed opened. Staff on the floor weren’t allowed phones so had no idea what was happening unless someone happened to mention it.

    1. megaboo*

      Same, we saw the cop cars surrounding our library and went back inside. No one informed us of what was going on or that we were on lockdown.

  92. ConstantlyComic*

    I used to work at an old gold mine-turned tourist site. One of the main activities there was panning for gold-visitors paid for a pan’s worth of dirt, and staff would teach them the method. The panning area was a dirt pile surrounded by troughs that never seemed to get any breeze, so it would get swelteringly hot in the summer. Officially (according to the State), we were supposed to close the panning area if the heat index got over 100 degrees F to avoid the risk of staff or visitors getting heat stroke. We never actually did. We had people passing out from the heat at least once just about every one of the hot summer months that I worked there.

    I also had a coworker who had a medical condition that made it hard for her to retain water and was hired under the impression that water would be supplied to staff. It was–for about a month. After that it was either use the sulfur-tasting, lukewarm water from the one water fountain on the property or bring even more of her own water. She did the latter.

    1. ConstantlyComic*

      Just remembered another story from that gold mine:

      There had been some really bad storms and rain in the area, leading to flooding, trees down, and power outages that were days-long in some areas. One of those areas included my old workplace. I believe that there was some sort of emergency lighting in the tourable mine tunnels, so visitors could still experience that, but the power was out in the visitors’ center. It was, of course, unsafe to be in the building with all the power out, so instead the site manager set up a folding table in the entryway (fortunately under a covered part of it), got out the cash box we used for events, and had us work from out there. While storms were still happening. I don’t know why the site couldn’t have just closed for a couple of days until the power came back–there aren’t that many tourists wanting to go tour an old gold mine in a downpour.

    2. Former Mailroom Clerk*

      Isn’t passing out from heat exhaustion part of the authentic gold mining experience? They were going for realism there!

  93. High School Teacher, Texas*

    Last week, in the evening, we had a credible threat against our school. One kid was arrested, others were questioned by police.

    The district did not say anything until the next day, AFTER the mandatory attendance reporting period. This is also known as the “money” period, because it affects state funding. Butts in chairs = payment by the day by the state.

    When the school finally alerted parents to the arrest the previous night and the removal of a group of students from campus, the parents rightfully swarmed the school to pick up their kids. And then someone pulled the fire alarm. It was pandemonium. Administrators were yelling at teachers to get kids back to class and to ignore the alarm, kids and parents were fleeing thinking there was a shooting event.

    The district has said nothing to teachers, parents, or students about their poor decision making. This was the last straw for me. After 20 years, I’m out of K12 ed forever.

    1. Jenzee*

      I’m so so sorry. Our teachers (and kids and parents) should never have to put up with this crap.

  94. Dust Bunny*

    For a semester in college I had a room in a dorm that shared a basement level with the dorm next to it. If a fire alarm went off in one dorm it also went off in the two neighboring dorms since they were very near each other and connected by a covered walkway. So this one dorm could be set off by five dorms. It was a constant nightmare of Saturday-night burnt-pizza fire alarms. Also, the dorm room doors were so heavy that if they were closed you could barely hear the alarm in the hallway. It wasn’t a volume problem–the alarms were skull-spitting if you were in the hall–but they apparently did not cheap out on the doors.

  95. Tired All The Time*

    Two examples, one more egregious than the other:

    1. I worked for a massive company with hundreds of locations that made national news a few years ago after a staff member was violently murdered in the middle of the reception area by an angry client. Corporate made a “renewed commitment” to employee safety that never amounted to anything. I had one client scream at me while punching furniture so aggressively that other clients complained on my behalf, and another client wrote me a very calm email about all of the guns he owned and how even though company policy did not allow guns at our location I would “never know if he was armed” so I should be “careful to provide only the best customer service.” I documented everything with my district manager and HR and the only response I got was to stay professional and not give them a reason to “escalate.” I left after less than a year and found out later that my replacement was suing that same district manager after he fired her for yelling at/kicking out a vendor who THREW SOMETHING AT HER, which was especially egregious considering she was visibly seven months pregnant at the time. She’d been told “not everyone is cut out for customer service” and I don’t know what happened with the lawsuit but I hope she won.

    2. This isn’t quite as bad. I worked at a major retail chain and people would bring in dogs that clearly weren’t service animals, and at least once/week we’d find dog poop on the floor or in a cart (including in the grocery section!). Only managers could talk to customers with dogs for fear of discrimination lawsuits, and the ones at my store would stall until the person left to avoid confrontation, then make the floor staff clean up the mess. I knew from past work at a different location that there was a corporate rule that only people with special biohazard training (pretty much only managers) could deal with waste so I discreetly started telling my coworkers so they could refuse on the grounds that they “don’t want to violate company policy.” I was only seasonal and I don’t think it solved the root problem, but it at least gave people a way to get out of cleaning up poop.

  96. Samsally*

    When I was in high school the protocol for tornados was to all line up against the walls in the basement. Only… there wasn’t enough basement wall for everyone so some of the less lucky classes were put on the first floor. Right next to the wall of glass doors.

    The teachers and staff all seemed to go mysteriously deaf when I loudly pointed out that this wasn’t ideal.

  97. Abogado Avocado*

    I worked for a non-profit in a 1920’s-era, sparsely occupied former bank building with this motto chiseled above the front door: “Frugality is the Mother of All Virtues.” That maxim apparently guided the building’s non-resident owners, who made repairs only when forced by a higher power, such as city inspectors.

    Once, just one of the building’s two elevators was functioning — and only if the “concierge” (actually, the unfortunate son of the property management company owner) climbed on the top of the elevator and held two very large electric cables together to make the contraption rise or fall. I am not making this up. Every time someone needed to use the elevator, the “concierge” would use a ladder he had placed inside the elevator, pull himself up through the access port in the ceiling, stand atop the box and hold those two large cables together. When the building’s few lessees expressed fear that he might electrocute himself or fall, he said he had to do this because the building owners hadn’t authorized an elevator repair. There was some scuttlebutt that his parent’s property management company was paid more if it minimized repair costs.

    My coworkers and I put up with this dangerous nonsense for a few days because we worked on what effectively was the 13th floor — that is, until someone clued in the city’s elevator inspection office. The city shut down the building until the elevators were repaired (correctly) by a recognized elevator repair company.

    And we all went about our business until a water valve in the basement failed in a major way, flooding said basement with eight feet of water and knocking out all power to the building for two months. But that, my children, is another story. . .

    1. Observer*

      That’s insane. But the management company owner was a “special” level of bad.

      I mean the owner LITERALLY put their kid at risk of being killed – and pretty painfully, at that – to save a couple of dollars for the owner. I’m sure they could have forced the issue if they had wanted to, but apparently that “extra bonus” was more important than their own child’s safety.

      I hope the son eventually went “no contact” with parents.

      1. JSPA*

        As a teen or 20- something I’d have totally loved to have an excuse to climb on top of an elevator and bring wires into contact (though I think / hope I would have demanded electrician-quality gloves and shoes, which i’m guessing this guy didn’t get).

        Plus we don’t know if it was the high voltage powering the elevator, or essentially doorbell-voltage connection allowing the buttons or door sensor to “talk” to the safety override system.

        (With heavy high voltage wire, you don’t have to bring the ends together from each side to meet in front of you. You can hold them at an acute angle a couple-three feet away from you, to touch them together. With low voltage wire, there’s no real electrical risk.)

        As to the risk of riding on top of an elevator, that’s highly dependent on the type of elevator.

        On the one hand it’s definitely a safety violation. On the other hand, I’ve seen elevator repair people do pretty much both of these things… which suggests that while it’s a significant hypothetical danger, it’s not necessarily an absolute / unmitigatable danger.

  98. La Peregrina*

    Many years ago I worked as a seasonal intern at a nature sanctuary in Florida. One of our jobs was working with the resource manager on invasive species control projects. This involved spraying a concentrated herbicide on trees and shrubs. The herbicide needed to be diluted in a large amount of oil, usually vegetable oil, but our management was cheap and used diesel fuel instead.

    Now, it’s bad enough that they’re asking us to spray large amounts of diesel fuel directly into the swamp at a *nature sanctuary*. But there we are out in the direct sun in 90-100F weather, carrying around heavy backpack sprayers and inhaling diesel fumes all day! We got disoriented, several of us fainted, and our resource manager nearly stepped on the biggest Eastern diamondback rattlesnake I’ve ever seen.

    We complained to our boss and grandboss, and even brought this up with the organization’s CEO when he visited, but everyone dismissed our complaints. I hear they finally changed the policy years later, but it’s amazing no one got hurt.

  99. Mastermind*

    Probably when they required everyone to report to work the day Hurricane Ian, a category four storm that went through Florida in 2022, because “one of the truck lines wasn’t closing” (it has no office or facility in our area and only like one truck per week coming for pickups) and “we can work in the morning before it gets bad” (storm left several dead and thousands of people out of power by the end of the day) and none of the spineless owners wanted stand up.

    We sell wholesale flowers. Needless to say I didn’t work that day.

  100. werewolf*

    one time the copperhead snakes that were kept in the nature classroom attached to my office managed to find a breach in their enclosure and got halfway out before their caretaker responded to my officemate’s frantic phone call to come and get them back in

    1. JSPA*

      Copperheads?!? In a classroom?!? That’s already one of the worst things on this list. Even before the breach. “Rarely fatal” is not you’re looking for in a classroom setting.

  101. Amari*

    My friend works as a mechanic and their boss/HR kept writing people up for uniform violations – people just weren’t wearing the required provided coveralls. They thought it was just people screwing around for no reason until my friend kindly explained to management that it was because they were cheap polyester coveralls and unsafe if there was a fire. There had recently been a fire. HR person had never considered even for a second that this might be a safety issue.

  102. Better believe I'm anon for this*

    This was a few years ago when pot was just becoming legal in some states. In our state, it was illegal but CBD oil was not. In our very crunchy small business grocery store / vitamin store we had an entire display.

    For those who do not know, CBD is the compound in marijuana that gives pain relief and anxiety relief but does not get you high – that would be THC.

    When our state legalized medical marijuana, you had to get it from a state dispensary and pay a lot of state taxes. I’m guessing it was for this reason that the state began cracking down on CBD sales, since they saw us as eating into their profit. Even though no one ever got high from CBD.

    Our city person in charge of said cracking down enjoyed frequenting our store and was cynical about the reasons behind the new enforcement, so he made sure to keep our higher ups informed about everything and let us know the entire procedure – that we were okay selling it until he sent us an official cease and desist letter, and after we received the letter we would have to remove it from shelves but he gave us a lot of info on certification etc. so we would be able to sell it again.

    Having this inside information, did the higher ups actually do anything proactively? No they did not. He even gave us timing on the letter (“you have about a month”) and when it came they still absolutely lost their collective minds. We got conflicting info from several people about what to do now, and finally were told that what we should do is move it all to the office behind the registers, and if a customer asked about it, we were to clandestinely bring them back behind the registers and sell it to them out of that office in brown paper bags. Not sketchy at all, no sir!

    I was following this new “protocol” when the cashier’s eyes bugged out and she motioned me away frantically. I was confused (and so was the customer) but we awkwardly went away until she was finished with her customer – who was a reporter from the big capital city paper who was interviewing her about the new policy and what we were doing about it!

    I still can’t believe with all the advance notice “sell it out of the back office like it was actual pot” was what the executives agreed on. They must have been high.

  103. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    I moved to Seattle about six months after the Nisqually earthquake and my first job (starting the first week of September 2001, yes) was on the 40th floor of an office building downtown. When I was getting the first-day tour of the office, bathrooms, office supplies, etc, I noticed a set of earthquake safety tips taped to the front of the supply cabinet, and later went back to read it. The last thing on the list was “Remember, you can’t get everybody out. Some people are just going to have a bad day. :) ” (Yes, with the smiley face.)

  104. Exacademic*

    Instead of buying new, sealed radiation sources, our PI suggested that we crack open a bunch of smoke detectors and take the tiny radiation sources from them.

    Fortunately logic prevailed, but it was a worrying suggestion from the person who was supposed to be charge of the departments radiation safety program.

    1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      Maybe he read “The Radioactive Boy Scout” one too many times!

  105. La Triviata*

    Not work, but several years ago the apartment building I lived in had a bad fire. It was old and hadn’t been well maintained, so a number of the alarms did not go off at all. Many went off after a while and people couldn’t get out because the (internal) fire stairs were full of firemen and hoses, etc. Some people in the upper floors were debating about throwing their children out the windows, since they couldn’t carry them down. Some people didn’t know there was a fire until the firemen broke in their windows. The day after, the fire marshal and a number of building management people had a meeting with all tenants to discuss it; a few days later, they had the fire marshal back while they tested the fire alarms and most of them didn’t go off at all.

    The building’s been sold, the new owners are doing major renovations; I moved years ago.

  106. Jumping Jehoshaphat*

    I walked into the office and immediately smelled gas. No one else had noticed it. Bosses/owners are never in the building. Basically, no one is in charge. We can’t get them on the phone, so someone calls the fire department. Turns out extreme cold weather has iced up the air vents on the roof, forcing gas back into the building. Bosses/owners are pissed we called and won’t send us home for the day, so we lug equipment (pre laptop days) to the nearby coffeeshop to work. No, nothing was that urgent. Nothing.

    The next day, the weather is even colder, so the exact chain of events happens all over again.

  107. Laura*

    I worked in a lab that was in a shared space with a HIV lab and so we all had to wear disposable booties & tyvek suits instead of just a lab coat. There was a room to gown up in and then a sort of airlock-style room with a trash can where you removed your dirty PPE – like an airlock, only one door could be opened at a time. Fire drills were the worst because you had 15 people slowly waiting their turn to squeeze into the room to remove their PPE, inevitably the trash can would fill up so someone would have to empty it and put in new trash bags, and it took forever to get us all out of the building. I always swore that if there was an actual fire I was going out the emergency door in my full PPE and they could figure out a way to decontaminate me outside. I was so happy to move out of that building!

  108. NameWithheld*

    A long ago company I worked for had a server room with halon dump fire suppression. It was properly wired to auto seal the doors and had override buttons at regular intervals to delay the dump / unlock the doors – but some of the buttons were broken. The solution? To prop open the nearest door with a backpack while working in the room.

  109. Dust Bunny*

    I’ve posted about this before, and apparently there are no/far too few laws to do anything about it: My first job out of college was as a stable hand at a summer camp. Only it “sort of” had a horse program. There are a lot of things you can half-ass but a horse program is not one of them. They got their horses from a guy who bought them at auction and brought them literally anything that didn’t try to kill him as he put it in the trailer. We had horses that were ancient, sick, lame, psychologically broken, not trained to saddle, the works. Other camps in the area had experienced, well-cared-for school horses leased from private owners or from schools.

    We lumped it with our few functional horses until the women’s organization that helped support the camp came to visit and my supervisor cornered them and gave them a rundown. We got sent home early with the rest of our summer pay. I hope they either got their act together or gave up on the horse thing entirely.

    1. whimbrel*


      I feel like there’s an excellent joke about management being donkeys in there but but I can’t quite put it together.

      (Also, I hope the horses ended up in better situations!)

  110. Serenity*

    I worked for nearly a decade in an office where the overhead announcements were not audible in the back hall. This mattered, because we worked with clients who could potentially be violent, and though we had locked/keyed doors to the staff area, part of the response plan to a violent intruder was to announce this to staff. We had an ALICE training, and no one in the back could hear the “armed intruder” alert. Admin’s solution is that staff will just inform other staff. (As I worked there for years before I even discovered there WAS a paging system, this solution is garbage.) They looked into fixing the speakers but said it’s too hard.

  111. Red5*

    At my very first job out of college, there was an open hole in the drywall next to my desk large enough that I could’ve crawled into it. The building was old enough that asbestos would’ve definitely been used during construction. I complained about it enough that eventually someone came in and taped a piece of clear plastic over the hole. They must have used some cheap tape, because it didn’t take long for it to lose its stickiness and half of the plastic peeled off and just kind of hung there. I complained again and was told that asbestos won’t get into your lungs if it isn’t disturbed, and anyway, it wouldn’t affect me until middle age anyway. As if I would be okay with getting mesothelioma in my 50s from a job at 21 that paid $9/hour.

  112. You want stories, I got stories*

    Not a safety issue, but it is funny.

    I used to work in a 35 floor building. My company occupied floors 21-28. We got an e-mail that floors 29-35 would be conducting a fire drill, but we could ignore it. I happened to be on the phone when this drill happened. The customer was, “Are those alarms going off, do you need to leave?” I apologized and explained it was for a different floor and didn’t concern me.

  113. Ruby Soho*

    My former company had upper mgmt’s kids working there in the summers. All were in high school and under 18, which means they are legally not allowed to work in the warehouse or production areas (not sure if it also applies to office areas). The kids tooled around on hover boards and segues even if they were pulling pallets around on a pallet jack, they took naps on stacks of pallets, climbed to the 3rd level of the warehouse racks to pick since the forklifts were all broken. There were probably a lot more horrible things I – luckily – did not witness.

  114. Bad Wolf*

    I work in film production. Sooo many hair raising stories. Producers will do anything to “get their shot.”
    One time, we were shooting an exterior scene in a field. The actors got wind there might be snakes in the tall grass. Understandably, they did not feel comfortable going in there. So the producers made the Production Assistants (the youngest, least experienced, least paid, non-unionized, do-what-ever-needs-done position) go in the grass and beat it with sticks to chase away the snakes.
    Thankfully, no one got bit. But man. Talk about paying your dues.

    1. metadata minion*

      Were the snakes dangerous or aggressive? Most snakes are not going to hurt you, and will scurry away the second they hear a lot of big potentially-dangerous creatures (i.e. humans) tromping through their habitat.

      If you live in an area where there are fer-de-lances or something, obviously the equation changes.

  115. Adriano*

    “You’d think safety would be top of mind for employers”

    Look, I know where you’re coming from, but no, we wouldn’t.

  116. SALC*

    At my university I worked in the IT department which OF COURSE is in the basement because classic. For some reason even though the rest of the building’s air intake was on the roof, the basement air intake was at street level in a pedestrians-only zone with giant signs that said NO SMOKING! AIR INTAKE! But everyone smoked right outside it anyways

    And then they started doing construction in that area, redoing the walkways etc. Right outside our air intake. OVER AND OVER they would forget to switch or ventilation to the roof intake and start doing work with crazy chemicals and smells right outside our air intake. Every Friday like clockwork, the most sensitive employee (allergic to everything, including perfume and cigarette smoke) would get a headache, the rest of us would realize there’s a weird smell, and someone would take a peeek upstairs and see the construction workers doing whatever and wearing protection so they wouldn’t inhale the insane chemicals. And then we would evacuate and work from a nearby computer lab. EVERY FRIDAY for weeks on end.

    Eventually someone called OSHA who came and investigated and idk what happened besides them leaving us with an air quality monitor device in our office, but it did stop after that.

  117. LabSnep*

    In my former career of a graphic designer, I worked in an old, old building with a boiler.

    Once it wasn’t working and it was too cold to work. Like, even if you are too small to have an OHS department it was illegal per the employment law. We were chastised for leaving (we could see our breaths).

    Another time, the boiler had an obvious gas leak we could smell through the building. We all left in spite of my boss telling us we were overreacting and we should just all open the windows. I had a headache from the fumes.

    Turns out the boiler WAS leaking gas and it could have been catastrophic in terms of an explosion or, you know, carbon monoxide poisoning.

    1. Mad Harry Crewe*

      There was a gas leak and then explosion several years ago in my downtown. We heard it from probably two miles away. Luckily, everyone was evacuated successfully before the explosion and nobody died – I think one of the fire fighters was thrown or struck by something and broke his leg, but that was the worst of it.

  118. SBT*

    As a former teacher and someone who works in education, the overwhelming number of responses related to school buildings is amusing and so, so concerning.

  119. Seven If You Count Bad John*

    I once interviewed for a bench job at a dental place—they made false teeth, bridges, dentures, like that. There were a lot of red flags during the interview process (speaking of arduous interview—this place ran me through FIVE separate meetings, hired me, and then when I showed up for my first shift, the HR person didn’t know anything about it and thought I was there for yet another interview…I walked out. But anyway).

    So I’m doing my bench test and in the casting room I see the workers handling investment with no masks, and kicking up clouds of the stuff, really careless handling. Dental investment isn’t toxic but it does need to be handled with respect, because it’s a respiratory hazard—you can develop long term lung problems from inhaling that fine dust. I really should have bailed out of the job then and there, but I was desperate.

    1. La Triviata*

      Some years ago, it turned out that a man was packaging and selling mercury for dental amalgam from his home. He’d been doing it for years and, when he was investigated, it turned out that he’d contaminated his entire neighborhood, including neighbors’ vegetable gardens.

  120. Damn it, Hardison!*

    As someone who grew up in tornado alley and had tornado drills in school, I have a healthy respect for tornado alarms and am inclined to find appropriate shelter when I hear one. I went to college in a state where they are not rare, but people’s attitudes about them were much more laid back. Tornado sirens went off during my undergraduate thesis presentation, which was already extra stressful for me because of the unexpected faculty members who decided to attend. I stopped, asked if perhaps we should take a break and maybe head to a basement, but no, I was assured it was nothing and to keep on going. So I finished my presentation and answered what felt like a million questions while the sirens went off and the sky turned a weird green color. There were in fact tornados in the area, but perhaps they thought that God would spare a room full of people listening to a (very pompous and totally ridiculous) undergraduate thesis on theology and existentialism.

    1. LingNerd*

      I grew up in a place like that! Plenty of tornado sirens, but not very many actual tornadoes, and the few that did happen were usually small and short-lived. That seems to be how it is in the Midwest outside of tornado alley. I’d definitely be heading to the basement if I saw the sky turn green though

      1. A Girl Named Fred*

        Same. Where I grew up, people’s first reaction to a tornado warning siren was to go outside and look around. Which is both funny and horrifying to think about when I look back – but even then, if the sky starts turning green all but the most hardcore (read: stubborn) folks will go to their basements.

    2. JustaTech*

      My husband’s company has a bunch of sites in Tornado alley.
      Each site has very few staff, but they have to be there, so even during peak COVID they were on-site (and just staying away from each other).
      Then the tornado alarms go off and they’re all like – go down to the shelter where we’re safe from tornados but crammed in with this scary respiratory disease, or stay up in the fresh air and tornado?
      They chose to risk COVID and hide in the shelter, which was wise because there were several touch downs in their area (but thankfully not their building).

  121. Derry Girl*

    Back in the 80s in Belfast, there was a bomb scare in my workplace, the local university. A few years previously a member of the security forces who was studying there had been killed so if there was even a hint of trouble we were straight out of there. Not one of the students though who insisted that he was staying in the library to finish his essay. I literally turned him round and pushed him out ( in retrospect probably a sackable offence but in the circumstances….) pointing out that there were things that I would die for but that place wasn’t one of them. Only after I shouted it a couple more times did he eventually move …

  122. Nobby Nobbs*

    This was not a violation on the part of the company, as the employee in question is no longer employed here, but: there was The Guy Who Rode The Aerator. This was not a ride-on aerator. It was a walk-behind aerator. I was on the ride-on aerator, thinking about how nice it was to have a crew who could just be given their instructions and go do their jobs when a crew member walked up to me and showed me a video: this guy sitting sidesaddle on the walk-behind aerator, steering it one-handed across the customer parking lot, surrounded by other people’s parked cars, in front of God, his coworkers, and our customers and clearly thinking himself extremely cool. Again, he is no longer employed here.

  123. Lurker*

    Not super egregious but I walked out over it. I was a bartender in the South. It gets hot over summer. The new manager was putting me on patio every. single. shift. I started waking up the morning after my shifts feeling hungover (I don’t drink). I said I didn’t want to work on patio anymore, since the rest of my shifts I was actually working in our food truck that featured a 500-600 degree pizza oven and broken AC that they were reluctant to fix because “it wouldn’t really make a difference.” (We did have another AC attached to the truck but with 90-100F weather we needed everything we could get.) Anyways the new manager told me I “couldn’t make demands” not to work outside every shift. Literally not a single other person there was made to work on the patio every single shift like me. So I walked out and have never felt more satisfied with a decision to quit a job.

    1. LingNerd*

      I once got severely dehydrated over the course of several days while working at a restaurant and walking to and from work in the summer. I was on cold appetizers and desserts so I wasn’t even in the hot part of the kitchen! I just didn’t drink enough during my shift and was too busy to realize. I didn’t have to go to the hospital, but it was close. I’m glad things turned out alright for you, since it sounds like you were probably getting pretty dehydrated if you woke up feeling hung over

      1. Lurker*

        Yeah, I think it was also heat exhaustion. It’s extremely humid where I was working so 90F can easily be a +100F heat index, and sweating doesn’t help you cool off. The shift I walked off, I had shown up in jean pants. She was still going to make me work patio, even though there was literally no reason why someone else couldn’t do it. She just didn’t like me I guess.

  124. Tracy*

    My boss decided to save money by hanging some new cabinets himself. He then proceeded to stack about 50 lb of stuff on top of each of them PLUS what was stored inside. They came crashing down one day extremely narrowly missing hitting and crushing my coworker. My boss just laughed maniacally while he screwed them back up to the wall without any extra support and stacked the same stuff on top again. It was so incredibly wild and unhinged.

  125. Nightengale*

    My two are not terribly egregious except I discovered them both (one before and one after) taking a required safety survey at work.

    I’m a doctor working in an office as part of a large hospital system, for reference.

    One was our new photocopier that had been placed on top of our paper shred bin. I could not reach the photocopier buttons without standing on a chair. I am actually average height for a woman. ..

    Then I decided after several months working in the office to check out our back evacuation exit. The corridor was completely full up of tables, desks, etc. I might have been able to slip through. A person using a wheelchair absolutely could not have.

    The coda to this second was that our office manager went to meet with the office next door about the stuff they had been storing in the back evacuation hallway. They said to her, “what hallway? there’s a storage closet back there!”

    1. Observer*

      One was our new photocopier that had been placed on top of our paper shred bin. I could not reach the photocopier buttons without standing on a chair.

      That’s one of the weirdest stories I’ve seen. Why on earth would anyone do that?!

      1. Annie*

        Two plausible guesses: Someone was trying to save floor space, or someone stacked them like that “temporaily” then forgot to take the copier off the top.

      2. Nightengale*

        The installation worker was tall and didn’t think about other people being less tall? There was plenty of floor and counter space that could have been used.

        My hospital system in general has a terrible case of “We did not think this through”

        1. Chirpy*

          I have an electric rope cutter at work (basically, a hot wire to melt through the rope). I am average height for a woman, and everyone else in my department is similarly sized. The guy who installed the cutter was over 6′ tall and didn’t listen to me telling him it was too high, so now we all have to risk burns while standing on tiptoe to reach the thing.

      3. MA Dad*

        If it’s the type of shredding bin like at my work, a company comes once in a while to empty it out and wheel the bin back up to us. Wouldn’t they have to move the copier every time?

        1. Nightengale*

          I think our shred bin opens from the front and the bag of shredded paper gets loaded onto a portable shred cart without moving the bin itself. I think?

          Also, clearly the person doing this wasn’t thinking of anything practical like how to open the shred bin. I’m not sure the person was clearly thinking of anything beyond “deliver and plug in photocopier.” Fortunately the Giant Fuss I created got the photocopier moved to a safe location before we had to find out what happened when the Shred Bin Person came.

  126. anon for this*

    Because the janky old multi-story building I worked in had only one elevator, which was usually out of service, and because I had multiple doctors’ notes on file with the company outlining the impossibility of me navigating the stairs, the cheapos in charge at my former job came up with a brilliant solution.

    The receptionist would notify me every time the building was scheduled for a “random” fire drill, so that I would know to come down in the elevator ahead of time and wait around outside until the drill was over. (We only had the drills because there were students on another floor of the building.)

    I once asked the safety officer what would happen in the case of a real emergency. He just smiled and said, “Well, I guess I’d just carry you down the stairs.” (I was six inches taller than this dude and probably twice his size.)

    What’s that, you say? Work from home? No, not possible! (Even though a big chunk of my department of people doing my exact same job worked from home all or part of the time.) No, no, accommodating me in ANY way was an undue financial hardship for the company, or so everyone from the HR VP on down kept telling me…

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      “Oh, how fun! so let’s practice you carrying me during each drill just so we know what it’s like”

  127. Margo*

    Once had one of those override alerts on your phone where it blares a noise even when on silent- it said a tornado had touched down nearby seek shelter. We were in the woods and hadn’t had tornado safety plan (to my knowledge). When I called the supervisor, located elsewhere but also in the field, he told us to keep working until we saw a tornado and then head to the truck. My partner and I opted not to follow those instructions and immediately headed to the truck in time for the downpour and second warning. No actual touch downs where we were, luckily.

    Did not work there much longer though that story is more supervisor specific than company.

  128. Cabbagepants*

    My company would have people work back-to-back 80-hr weeks for months during production startup. We were exempt so I guess it was legal. It got to the point that people would fall asleep at the wheel driving home and crash and die. The company responded by giving vouchers to spend the night at a hotel across the street from the factory. I believe this was not because they cared about us but because they were clearly understaffed so losing someone would be an inconvenience.

  129. ferrina*

    Working with young kids when a tornado touched down near us. My employer was well prepared and had designated locations for us to shelter in place. The issue was getting the kids there. As soon as they heard the tornado alarm, one kid started to panic. That caused a second kid to panic. Within seconds 6 or 8 kids yelling and crying and unable to move anywhere.

    I don’t know what came over me. My brain did split-second calculous of how long it would take to talk them down kindly and gently and thought- nope, too long. I went full drill sergeant. “In Line! Eyes Forward! When I Say Line Up, You Line Up! No, No Questions! Eyes Front, Mouths Closed! And Walk!”

    Maybe I was also channeling Granny Weatherwax, because it worked. The kids responded automatically, lining up and pausing their crying and marching along to the designated place. I don’t know if it was the air of authority, the shock of the yelling, or if they realized that while the tornado was scary, it was somewhere out there and I was right here. We made it fine, the tornado didn’t come near us, and there was no last