I visited a nice shipyard recently, but when I entered the main showroom and offices I immediately smelled cigarette smoke. That’s not a good way to welcome any prospective customer. 

I had an appointment with the CFO so when I got to his office I told him what my first impression of the shipyard was. I have known him a long time so I felt comfortable telling him about it. Being a good company man, he said that the owner was a smoker but offered no other comments.

After leaving the CFO’s office, I made the rounds and checked all of the buildings for current condition and value. I was more than a bit surprised to see cigarette butts in virtually every building, including the mechanic shop where engine work was being done and the usual gasoline containers were present. 

Later, I also visited the paint and fiberglass area and saw more cigarette butts smashed on the cement floor. 

I had a dilemma on my hands. Do I tell the insurance company that insures the place? Do I explain the situation to the worker’s compensation insurance company? Are we looking at an OSHA problem?

I decided to sit down with the owner and have a very frank discussion with him about what I saw. Keep in mind that I am not the business owner, and he can do whatever he feels like doing. All I could do was diplomatically provide my opinion as to what he might do. After all, most good and bad decisions come from the top down in closely held businesses.

I started with a reminder that a business never gets a second chance to make a first impression on their potential customers. As he listened intently, I then explained that allowing smoking in the mechanic shop was not only a fire hazard but also a workers safety hazard. I said that I was not going to be a whistleblower but if an inspector from any insurer or OSHA stopped by there would be a problem. 

We’ll see how it plays out.